I have always imagined loneliness after the retirement age to be a private matter. Before retirement, regardless of social, family or love life, if you are working it can be a non-issue because you can mould your entire life around your career. After work ends and due to unfortunate circumstances you are indeed lonely, then I can imagine it would be something you could get used to, and the reasons behind the fact you are lonely is a matter that is personal. Whether the reason is widowed, divorced, disowned or close friends have died; reopening your lonely life for a platonic relationship will require a moment of confidence and ability to overcome social shyness.
In the case of Netflix Original Our Souls at Night, it encapsulates the above. Two widowed neighbours, Louis Waters and Addie Moore (Robert Redford and Jane Fonda) are lonely. One night, with nervous energy, Addie visits Louis with a quirky proposition. “Come to mine and sleep with me?”. Calm down, she doesn’t mean it in that way, she meant it literally; come round and spend the night, let’s talk and fall asleep together. Her proposal feels like the sign of a last-ditch attempt at companionship, even if it does sound marginally platonic. Our Souls at Night moulds itself around the two Hall of Fame stars, it understands that the duo bear Academy Awards and lifetime achievement awards. Dialogue and composed performances are the only components to this feature.
That is not a bad observation. If anything, I found the movie to be quite charming. The two characters initially tiptoe around each other in a cute fashion, which is the defining base to the narrative. Escaping loneliness appears to be difficult, but at night they need each other more than ever. The dialogue is strong, albeit lengthy at times. The key to the components is their reaction to outside influences. A vast majority of the storyline involves worrying about what people may think. Their resolute approach is what makes it fascinating. Few movies manage to successfully put two people under such a microscope, that the characters outside their vacuum feel more like intruders. The film is very community-heavy, like Gilmore Girls, where even as an audience member you feel oddly nosey like you should be unbeknown to the whole thing.
Despite the strong casting, solid script and the inescapable charm, Our Souls at Night feels like a lazy watch. It contains itself at one level such that at times, I felt the narrative was not moving. This is not a statement to say it was boring, but the one gear approach does not make it a memorable watch. Even with outside influences like family and friends, you fully understand where these characters will end up. There are no secrets withheld to where the plot is going. You can almost sense that Our Souls at Night is a celebration of two career-great actors showcasing how a performance is done, but when it is just that, it can only go so far. Despite this, I was charmed. I wanted a happy ending. I found myself immersed. I earnestly wanted no-one from the outside to hurt this attempt at companionship to end this heartbreaking loneliness. Our Souls at Night is a single piece of work that wants to be the definition of a heart-string-puller.
There are certain times to watch a movie like this. If you are prepared for a dialogue-centric only narrative with a plodding pace then find the time to watch it. Be prepared to smile from the charm.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.