"Gentle" is the word that comes to mind when describing Ritesh Batra's Our Souls at Night, a quiet and sensitive film that reunites legendary Hollywood icons Jane Fonda and Robert Redford as romantic leads. This is a far cry from their second film together, 1967's carefree newlywed comedy Barefoot in the Park, but it's a fascinating counterpoint, a bookend of sorts, exploring love and companionship in the golden years.
The screenplay, written by Kent Haruf, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, sets up the premise quickly, and then lets the story spool out from there. Redford plays Louis, a solitary widower in a small Colorado town, and Fonda is Addie, a solitary widow. Neighbors for years, she works up the courage to invite him over for a sleepover one night -- just sleeping. She has trouble sleeping alone, and welcomes the company. Soon it becomes a ritual for the two.
Our Souls at Night
86 Cast: Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Iain Armitage, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, Judy Greer
Director: Ritesh Batra
Rating: No MPAA Rating
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
The best moments of Our Souls at Night are the ones described in the title, where Louis and Addie slowly peel back the layers and bare their souls to each other, bit by bit over the course of many nights, while they're readying for bed. There's a restrained naturalism to their performances that shines when it's just Fonda and Redford playing off each other.
Despite a setting and premise that seems rather like a made-for-TV Lifetime movie -- quaint but gossipy Colorado town, chaste falling in love -- there is something often quite stirring about the subtle Our Souls at Night, thanks in large part to the stars. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, performing with his singular intensity, is a welcome, if slightly out of place, presence as Addie's troubled son, Gene.
Their grown children offer complications to their straightforward love story, as representatives of the tragedies and missteps in their lives. It becomes complicated in the way that life is complicated, and rewarding for its surprises and detours. Addie takes in her grandson, Jamie (Iain Armitage), for a spell, and the older couple offer him a stable, picture-perfect childhood for a fleeting moment in time.
Fonda and Redford excel in playing off each other, seasoned actors attuned to their partner's performance style, communicating in gesture, expression and reaction. But they are the most devastating performing alone, taking a quiet moment to let realization sink in, or simply attending to solitary routine
Our Souls at Night, which is playing in a few select theaters and streaming on Netflix, won't be everyone's cup of tea, with its slower pace, adherence to naturalistic performances, and soft and subtle storytelling. But those who stop to savor it could find themselves richly rewarded in witnessing this pair together again on screen.
MovieStyle on 09/29/2017