Synopsis: Soon to be a father, Mark (Daniel London) feels the pressure of domestic responsibility closing in, so he is more than happy to accept when his old friend Kurt (Will Oldham) proposes a camping trip in the Oregon wilderness. During their time together, the men come to grips with the changes in their lives and the effect on their relationship.
Cast: Will Oldham, - Daniel London, - Will Oldham, Kurt - Daniel London, Mark - Tanya Smith, Tanya - Robin Rosenberg, Waitress - Keri Moran, Lawnmower
Michael Wilmington - Chicago Tribune FILM REVIEW: OLD JOY By Michael Wilmington Chicago Tribune Movie Critic 3 stars "Old Joy" is a lovely little film about two old friends who get together for an outing in the Cascade Mountains, east of Portland, Ore. Though at one time they were close, they haven't seen each other for years and are trying to bridge that long separation. One of them, long-haired, boyish-faced Mark (Daniel London) is a husband with work and other responsibilities, including impending fatherhood. The other - bearded, piercing-eyed Kurt (Will Oldham) - is an unemployed musician with no ties, a bohemian type who never really entered the workaday world or figured out how to profit from his art. They have moved in such different directions that, if they met now for the first time, there's a chance they wouldn't bond at all. (Indeed, Mark's wife, Tanya, played by Tanya Smith, clearly regards Kurt as a dubious influence.) As the two drive into the woodsy roads in the Cascades, toward a hot spring retreat that Kurt insists he remembers as a place of awesome tranquility and peace, they pass through slightly forced friendliness, nervousness and slight irritation into more genuine camaraderie. They also pass through the simmering reds, golds and earth tones of the landscape, drinking in the nature that, for young counterculture people from the '60s on, signified holiness. (Few films convey this idea and feeling better.) When they finally reach the hot spring and some unattended outdoor baths, after some difficulty, they've passed through a physical/emotional journey all the more moving because so much was left unsaid. The movie has a large theme, even if it's unspoken. "Old Joy" is about a particular friendship, but it's also about how American society changed in the '90s and the new century, how the old idealist leftist artistic community allowed itself to be superseded by the mass cultural triumph of the right, how the kinds of things that nurtured Kurt and Mark in youth - like the vanished used-record store that Kurt laments - don't exist much anymore. "Old Joy" suggests, without directly saying anything, the cultural impoverishment that resulted from the retreat of progressive or non-mainstream people and ideas to the fringes of society. It's about a genuine search (however hokey it sounds) for inner peace - and about how the cultural divide between haves and have-nots affects onetime close friends like Mark, now a successful family man, and Kurt, who seems at times a desperate loser. Ironically, of the two, it is Kurt who gives the most. The director/co-writer/editor of "Old Joy," Kelly Reichardt - whose lyrical little independent film "River of Grass" made top-10 lists in 1995 but who has worked too seldom since - has an almost Chekhovian sense of loss, poignancy, social decay and the meanings behind silences and casual conversation. She brings to "Old Joy" a sensibility both literary and cinematic as well as a deep, unsentimental compassion. Co-written with author Jonathan Raymond, it's the filmic equivalent of a finely chiseled short story, or a minimalist novella with large reservoirs of emotion underneath. Like life, it makes you happy and sad by turns, and occasionally at the same time. Fresh as spring water and warm as sunlight, it steeps us in the beauties we will always miss, if we keep dividing the world into winners and losers. "Old Joy" Directed and edited by Kelly Reichardt; written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond; photographed by Peter Sillen; sound editing by Eric Offin; music by Yo La Tengo, performed with Smokey Hormel; produced by Neil Kopp, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy and Anish Savjani. A Kino International release; opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre. Running time: 1:16. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for nudity and drug use). Kurt - Will Oldham Mark - Daniel London Tanya - Tanya Smith