"Old Joy" is the story of two old friends, Kurt and Mark, who reunite for a weekend camping trip in the mountains in Portland, Oregon. The trip signifies different things to them - for Mark a respite from imminent fatherhood, for Kurt a part of along series of adventures. As the trip progresses and the landscape changes, the friends begin to examine their lives and their friendship.
The premise of this film is straightforward - two friends, Mark and Kurt, go on a camping trip in the woods outside Oregon. Much is left unsaid, but we are able to glean that Mark and Kurt haven't seen each other for some time, and that their lives have taken different directions since their friendship was first formed. Mark is acquiring the trappings of approaching middle age - a job, a house and, soon, a child. Kurt is still living a hippie/drop-out type of life. You get the sense that if Mark and Kurt were to meet now, they wouldn't necessarily form a friendship, and what the film is ultimately about is whether their shared history is enough to sustain the friendship now.
The film explores its central question in a deliberately subtle and naturalistic way. You get the sense that Mark struggles with some of Kurt's ideas and behaviours, whilst for his part Kurt seems to miss the friendship more than Mark does. However, there are no great histronics and no particularly clear-cut denouement. This certainly makes the film believable and relateable, but some may find this approach frustrating. My personal view is that if you take the film on its own terms, it is enjoyable and worth watching. I find myself still thinking about the film two days after watching it. It is also beautifully shot, and the soundtrack by Yo La Tengo fits the film perfectly.
An intimate look at the end of a friendship.
- Old Joy review by Shatner's Bassoon
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Part of the new genre of ultra-low budget indie films known as ‘Mumblecore’, Old Joy follows two old college friends Mark and Kurt, who after many years apart reunite for a weekend camping trip in the mountains of Oregon. Now in their thirties the two friends’ lives have diverged in two very different paths. While Kurt still leads the same shambolic and free spirited lifestyle the two shared in college, Mark has instead settled down with a steady job, and now has a wife with a child on the way. When the pair first reunite Mark quietly listens as Kurt recalls tales of life changing exploits and theories on life and happiness, though as the trip progresses it soon becomes apparent that the bonds that once tied the two great friends together are now too fragile to maintain the friendship any longer, and Kurt’s increasingly desperate attempts to show Mark how much he misses their past friendship only seem prolong the awkward silences and make Mark more and more uneasy in the presence of his old buddy. If you love low key ‘slice of life’ indie cinema then Old Joy, with its stunning views of Oregon’s mountainous landscape, a haunting soundtrack by Yo La Tengo, and superbly subtle performances from Will Oldham and Daniel London, is highly recommended. If you enjoyed this also take a look at similar films within the mumblecore genre such as ‘Puffy Chair’, ‘Funny Ha Ha’, ‘Four Eyed Monsters’ and if they ever get a DVD release... ‘Hannah Takes The Stairs’, ‘LOL’, ‘Dance Party USA’, and the superb ‘Quiet City’.