Old Joy

Director: Kelly Reichardt

To paraphrase a sentiment that opens Walter Salles’s Motorcylce Diaries, Kelly Reichardt’s film Old Joy deals with two characters whose lives ran parallel for a while. The problem is that, like all friendships (or roads for that matter), parallel only goes along for so long and it’s always a poignant, painful and interesting trip to explore just what happens when two old friends who have fallen out of touch find their lives intersecting once again, only to realize just how little they now have in common. Thirty-something married father-to-be Mark (Daniel London) gets a call out of the blue from old hippie friend Kurt (Will Oldham). Oldham does a fine job playing Kurt in a way that reminded me of one of those lost souls constantly on a journey to find his “new truth”—a Generation X composite of characters from Easy Rider and My Dinner With Andre, although he would probably fit right into the ensemble talky films directed by Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes) and Richard Linklater (Waking Life). Old Joy is book-ended by audio clips from Air America, subtly illustrating the way that current man seeks to get away from the tumultuous political climate and back into nature as the two former buddies reunite for a spontaneous camping expedition in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, and discuss the different choices they have made while getting lost and found again along the way. While viewers realize-- along with the characters who seem to understand this quietly and instinctively-- that this will probably be the last time the two get together as they seem like friends whose lives have now diverged completely from their once parallel paths, Kelly Reichardt’s deceptively simple film does involve viewers completely although she introduces a few threads (including some vague photographic and editing choices at the end) that cause viewers to question if they completely grasp the entire depth of the friendship and the men’s personal circumstances, thereby making the work seem a bit incomplete. Highly praised and frankly slightly overrated by critics, Reichardt’s film was based on the short story by Jonathan Raymond (who co-wrote the film with the director) and nominated for numerous independent honors including Best Film from Gotham and the John Cassavetes Award from the Independent Spirit Awards, winning the Independent/Experimental Film and Video Award from the L.A. Film Critics Association and the Tiger Award from the Rotterdam International Film Festival.