When we get old and our partners pass, the nights can get lonely with no one to talk to — that’s the idea behind Our Souls at Night, and the impetus that drives Louis (Robert Redford) and Addie (Jane Fonda), two 70-something widows, together.
At first platonic, simply to have someone to talk to, and then slowly and gently romantic, Louis and Addie’s relationship is something unbelievably intimate and profound to watch — and that’s due in large part to the quiet yet raw performances of Fonda and Redford. Fonda hangs on to moments, her eyes fluttering, nervous, capturing the vulnerability of Addie’s admittance of loneliness and efforts in bonding with Louis. Redford, whose performance is very much like Adam Driver’s in Paterson, incredibly reserved yet entirely wholesome, is quite stunning. The film focuses on the deep history of these two people’s lives, and while Addie’s history surfaces, Louis’ doesn’t. But Redford moves through the film shouldering that history, in small glances and brief words, and we feel the indirect presence of his past life as much as we see Addie’s directly. It’s truly the work of a masterful actor.
But much of what allows us to see all of this in Fonda and Redford in Our Souls at Night is the writing of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars) and the directing of Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox, The Sense of an Ending). Neustadter and Weber’s dialogue is simultaneously a showcase of naturalism and of calculated specificity. Nothing is over-explained or overstated. Nothing seems written. Yet, every naturalistic word feels writerly, almost painterly.
And just as Fonda holds on to moments, so does Batra. It’s the editing that produces the film’s quietude, leaving many of the shots to play in silence or extend beyond our preconceived notions of where a cut should be or where a scene should end. And while it may be slow, Our Souls at Night never feels slow. It’s progression is refreshing, an organic and unrushed development akin to the way life is when we get lonely, and when we try to connect again.
Featured image via Netflix.