Old Joy is a frustrating film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just it’s one of those movies whose success is entirely dependent on the frame of mind of the audience; on one hand I want to love it – almost every frame could make a beautiful stand alone photograph, it’s scored by Yo la Tengo and has Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) playing the best thing in it. On the other hand, nothing much really happens and the message that is so obviously being forced upon us is lost in tracking shots of trees and mountains.
Essentially a buddy film, although not quite in the vein of it’s Judd Apatow-alike contemporaries, Mark (Daniel London, who looks distractingly like Adrien Brody) is an early thirty something on the brink of fatherhood, apathetic about and trapped by life in the city, his job and his wife, who is invited on a trip to the mountains by an old friend Kurt (Oldham). The two are polar opposites – Mark, the straight, and Kurt, the weed smoking, travelling hippie. A force clearly stands between the two friends, one that the audience is lead to assume must be Mark’s overbearing wife and acceptance of responsibility. The limited use of dialogue to achieve this notion however is one of the downfalls of the film; by no means are either of the leads wooden, it’s just their exchanges make them seem so. It’s Oldham’s ranting monologues that hold the film together and keep the audience interested – for example, his theory that the universe is a tear shaped entity, constantly falling through nothing.
I fear that if I tell you any more than I have already however there won’t really be much point in watching the movie at all. Like I said, the mood of the audience is incredibly important; if you’re relaxed and ready to be immersed in a 70 minute stream of lush, graceful images then this film is perfect, and you’ll feel nice and sleepy afterwards. If you’re looking for something of any tangible substance however then try looking elsewhere.
words Jamie Clifton.