Our Souls at Night (2017)

  • Time: 102 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Ritesh Batra
  • Cast: Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Matthias Schoenaerts, Iain Armitage, Judy Greer, Bruce Dern

Storyline:

In Holt, a small Colorado town, Addie Moore (Jane Fonda) pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters (Robert Redford). Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they’d been neighbors for decades, but had little contact. Their children (Matthias Schoenaerts and Judy Greer) live far away and they are all alone in their big houses. Addie seeks to establish a connection, and make the most of the rest of the time they have.

2 reviews

  • There’s a reason why Robert Redford and Jane Fonda are film legends. Yes, they’re both talented and attractive but there’s something else – an indefinable, ineffable quality that holds one’s attention and never lets it go. That certain something suffuses the gentle and touching film adaptation of Kent Haruf’s novel, Our Souls at Night.

    It all begins with a relatively indecent proposal. One night, as Louis (Redford) sits alone in his house as he has done so many nights since his wife’s death, he’s visited by his similarly widowed neighbour Addie (Fonda). “Would you be interested in coming to my house sometime to sleep with me?” she asks. Louis is understandably taken aback, but it’s companionship rather than sex that Addie seeks. The nights are the worst, she observes, and it might be helpful to have someone next to her to talk her through those long and lonely nights.

    Louis knows of what she speaks – he needs help making it through the night himself – and, after briefly thinking it over, he shows up at her back door the next evening with a paper bag containing a change of clothes and toiletries. Though they have been neighbours for many years and she knew his wife, Louis realises that he doesn’t really know Addie at all. Well, says Addie, let’s get to know each other and get to know each other they do – Louis tells her of his extra-marital affair, Addie tells him of her guilt over her daughter’s accidental death – and word starts getting around the small town that there’s something going on between the two.

    As the two become more relaxed with one another and with their relationship, a complication arises in the form of Addie’s son Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts), who shows up one day to drop off his seven-year-old son Jamie (Iain Armitage) to stay with Addie whilst he sorts out his own marital problems. The family unit that Louis, Addie and Jamie form is soon shaken when Gene returns and vehemently disapproves of Louis, whom she shuts out at every turn.

    Though the drama surrounding Gene makes a certain amount of sense, the tone of it feels at odds with the overall placidity of the film. Schoenaerts himself seems miscast, though there’s a scene he shares with Fonda that, taken in and of itself, is so beautifully portrayed between the two actors. One keenly feels the lifetime of resentment that Gene carries and the burden of guilt that Addie has over not being able to ease him of his pain.

    Yet it all is a distraction to the pleasure of watching Redford and Fonda play off one another. Louis and Addie are hardly the most challenging roles of their careers, but the manner in which both stars take their time, feeling their way through the emotions, listening to and looking at each other – everything is just immaculately done. There are probably no more heart-swelling moments in the film than Addie inching closer to Louis in the car as well as walking arm-in-arm down the street.

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  • Our Souls at Night (Mildly Recommended)

    Robert Redford and Jane Fonda are back together for their third partnering in Our Souls at Night, a sweet and slight love story that basically goes nowhere. The film is essentially an interesting character study of two aging human beings fighting the pangs of loneliness. Widowed, Addie and Louis decide to have a platonic relationship, involving bedding down every night, without benefits, of course. The townsfolk begin to talk amongst themselves.

    While the film stays its course and examines their bittersweet romance and the trauma of growing old, it excels (thanks to the considerable charms and star power chemistry of the lead actors). But it detours into maudlin situations with a contrived and predictable plot that involves family dysfunction that strains credibility (although young Iain Armitage gives a wonderful natural performance as Addie’s grandson, Jamie). The direction by Ritesh Batra is standard and the screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber lets the melodrama get the better of them. The sanitized view of small Americana with its meddlesome townies and quaint street settings that resemble a Hallmark television movie (mind)set don’t help ground the film to any sort of reality check.

    Only Ms. Fonda and Mr. Redford are the real stars here. GRADE: B-

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