Our Souls at Night (2017)
We open up with scenes of a small town in the mountain west. Louis (Robert Redford) sits down at the kitchen table to eat a meal that looks like it’s from the microwave. He doesn’t seem happy eating this solitary dinner. We see him go about his nightly routine, cleaning the dishes, reading the paper while Louis listens to the weather report. He looks at the crossword puzzle in the newspaper and realizes that he has already finished it.
We cut to outside his home and Addie (Jane Fonda) starts walking towards Louis’s house, reconsiders and heads back the other way, only to stop and heads back toward Louis’s house. Louis, still reading the paper, hears a knock on the door, and it’s evident from his shocked reaction that he doesn’t get many visitors at night. He gets up, looks out the front door window and is surprised at what he sees. He opens the door, and they greet each other. It’s obvious from their conversation that they know each other but not well. Addie wants to talk to Louis about something, and they sit inside to talk. Addie has a proposal but is very hesitant to tell Louis what it is. She then says ‘Would you be interested in sometimes coming to my house to sleep with me?’ The question startles Louis and Addie goes on to explain that they are both alone, lonely and not sleeping well. She explains that it’s not about sex, ‘it’s about getting through the night, lying down in bed together and talking until we fall asleep.’ Louis seems to be a man of few words, or he is just shocked by Addie’s proposition. Louis tells her he will think about it and get back to her. Will Louis take Addie up on her proposition and could this ‘sleeping together’ develop into something more?
Robert Redford and Jane Fonda appear together fifty years after their iconic romantic comedy Barefoot in the Park. Our Souls at Night (what a horrible name for a romantic drama) is a slow-moving film that shows us that two people if they work hard enough for it, can find companionship late in life. This is the fifth film that pairs Fonda and Redford, and it shows on the screen. They both play off each other with impeccable timing, giving each other the space that is needed for this type of meandering, well-meaning film. The skill and grace they use to let us see their characters being revealed slowly to each other is a thing to watch. Redford plays the respectful and always careful Louis, who refuses to come into Addie’s house by the front door so that people won’t talk. Fonda plays Addie as more of a devil-may-care rebel who doesn’t care what people say or think about her. We learn that both are damaged by mistakes that happened in their past, some of them are their faults; other mistakes were made that couldn’t be helped, but both hurt them to their cores, and they are still dealing with those troubles.
I had high hopes for this film when I heard about it. It is directed by Ritesh Batra who made the beautiful romantic film The Lunchbox and the script, based on a novel by Kent Haruf, is adapted by writer Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who penned one of my favorite films of the past ten years, The Spectacular Now. I liked this movie but I wanted to love it. I don’t know if it is because it moves at a snail’s pace, or if it just feels a little too sentimental at times. I did enjoy the small bits of humor that the two characters share between each other and the fact that the director/writers didn’t put in a lot of old couple clichés.
The film is helped by an excellent supporting cast, including Bruce Dern, who plays a grumpy old man who is always telling horrible dirty jokes at the diner and is not liked by Louis, in fact, you keep waiting for Louis to say something to him. Judy Greer who plays Louis concerned daughter and in beautiful and moving performance, Iain Armitage, Addie’s grandson who is troubled by the breakup of his parents. Additionally, outstanding in his performance of Addie’s son who is bothered by her past mistakes is Matthias Schoenaerts.
Our Souls at Night ending feels a bit rushed, but you will enjoy spending time with two actors who have impeccable chemistry together playing two flawed characters who just might be able to heal each other with time and talk. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is currently available on Netflix.
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