Robert Redford and Jane Fonda made a great screen team for about a 12-year period in the 1960s and ’70s, but they haven’t worked together in nearly four decades. Although both were in 1966’s The Chase, it wasn’t until the next year when we saw their chemistry connect in the film version of Neil Simon’s Barefoot In The Park. In the intervening half century since, they worked beautifully together again in Sydney Pollack’s 1979 underrated The Electric Horseman. Finally now, thanks to Netflix of all places, they have found another worthy vehicle for their talents in Our Souls At Night, a leisurely paced meditation on loneliness, aging and human connection in which Redford and Fonda and the characters they play reconnect in unexpected, heartfelt and very human ways. As I say in my video review above, it may have taken almost 40 years to get this screen reunion, but it is well worth the wait.
Before debuting on Netflix at the end of the month, the Venice Film Festival premiered the film today and honored its stars with the Golden Lion for Life Achievement. But this film from director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) and writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber adapting Kent Haruf’s book proves this pair has so much left to offer. Fonda plays Addie Moore and Redford is Louis Waters, longtime neighbors who are not close. Both have lost their spouses. At the beginning of the film Addie impulsively knocks on Louis’ door, sits down and suggests that maybe he would agree to begin sleeping with her. That is a bold proposition, but as she explains to a dumbfounded Louis, she doesn’t mean it in a sexual way. Instead she just misses that human warmth next to her as she goes to bed each night, especially after so many years of marriage.
He actually agrees to do this and they begin their nights together laced with conversation about life, their past and the mutual experience of getting older and living alone. This is a film that simply unfolds at its own pace, and although there is dramatic conflict and revelations to come in terms of family connections, this really is a small gem of a drama about two people finding each other as they face the sunset. The past comes into play with their grown kids, who don’t exactly approve of this arrangement — particularly Gene (Mathias Schoenaerts), Addie’s son who has his own family travails and is raising son Jamie (Iain Armitage), who comes to visit Grandma. Redford’s daughter Holly (Judy Greer) also turns up briefly, and allusions to a dark moment from the past come with her. Among the rest of the supporting cast is Fonda’s Coming Home co-star Bruce Dern, seen briefly as one of Louis’ drinking buddies.
Oddly, it seems there is perfect symmetry between the gap between the newlyweds Redford and Fonda portrayed in Barefoot In The Park and the pair they play now, after the end of the adventure of marriage and nearer the end of their lives than the beginning. These two are just such extraordinary pros you just revel at the seeming ease with which they inhabit these characters. They don’t act at all, they just are.
If Netflix was the sole route to getting a story made about older people in a movie universe that only celebrates a younger demographic, then the existence of Netflix is well worth it. The producers are Redford, Erin Simms and Finola Dwyer. The film is getting a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles and New York.
Do you plan to see Our Souls At Night? Let us know what you think.