Saturday 14 November 2020

Movie Review: Our Souls At Night (2017)

A drama about friendship and family in the latter stages of life, Our Souls At Night is quietly amiable and benefits from two stars still shining bright.

In a small Colorado town, Louis Waters (Robert Redford) and Addie Moore (Jane Fonda) are neighbours on a tranquil street, both living alone after their spouses died and the children moved out. Addie approaches Louis and proposes he come over to platonically sleep with her, for the comfort of companionship and conversation. Although a man of few words, Louis agrees.

The arrangement works, and they start revealing difficult chapters from their lives. Addie endured a family tragedy that shattered her emotionally, while Louis cheated on his wife. Now his sleepovers briefly become the talk of the town, but their new routine is disrupted when Addie's grown son Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts) deposits his seven year old son Jamie with Addie while he sorts out trouble in his own relationship.

Reuniting on the screen for the first time since 1979's The Electric Horseman, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda elevate Our Souls At Night with authoritative veteran performances. While the adaptation of the Kent Haruf book is a placid story with familiar middle class travails as seen from the far end of life, the presence of two Hollywood legends maintains firm engagement.

Ritesh Batra directs with due respect for the material. Without dawdling, the scenes are staid and drama-free, consistent with the tone of two protagonists with enough life experience to easily avoid outbursts. Even when the potentially combustible Gene appears with a more middle-aged propensity for anger and grudge-holding, the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber seeks understated tension from admonishing looks and unspoken words.

Loneliness in old age, awakening the flicker of physical intimacy, and reflecting on past mistakes are among the unsurprising narrative mileposts and disclosed inflection points. Louis and Addie work their way to understanding the valuable contributory roles still available to them, now with the power of wisdom as an impressive secret weapon. They may not be spry, but they can chart a course to make amends, help each other, and support their offspring with soft authority. 

Old souls may find the nights difficult, but they can still glow during the day.

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