Our Souls at Night (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): Redford and Fonda in a twilight romance tale

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“Our Souls at Night” is your typical twilight romance tale with a touch of class. While its drama is predictable to the core, the movie is filled with enough warmth and sensitivity to engage us, and it surely helps that the two main characters of the movie are played by two great American performers in our time, who effortlessly fill their respective roles with not only their own presence but also the genuine sense of life and experience.

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda play Louis Waters and Addie Moore, two old people who have known each other for a long time as living in the same neighborhood of a small town in Colorado. Since their respective spouse died, they have been accustomed to living alone for some years, but Addie recently feels lonely at night, so she comes to Louis’ house during one evening for her modest proposal. If he wants, he can come to her house and be her bedfellow, and that is all she needs.

Louis is reluctant at first, but, after reflecting on how lonely he has been without his wife and daughter, he comes to accept Addie’s proposal. On the next day, he packs some clothes in a brown paperback and then walks to Addie’s house, and, to our small amusement, Addie surely sticks to her words after they awkwardly lie together on her bed.

After their modestly satisfying first night, Louis finds himself going to Addie’s house again and again, and he and Addie come to share the very personal parts of their life as they spend many nights together. Louis still feels regretful about how he deeply hurt his wife and daughter with his brief affair with one of his colleagues, and he also becomes wistful as musing on his dashed aspiration in the past. Addie still feels the pain from the unfortunate early death of one of her two children, and the scene where she bitterly recollects that tragic moment is one of the most poignant moments in the film.

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Not so surprisingly, many people in the town begin to notice more of Louis and Addie’s night activity, especially after Addie makes Louis come to the front door of her house instead of the backdoor. When one of Louis’ old fellows slyly taunts Louis for that, Louis emphasizes that nothing serious is going on between him and Addie, but then he and Addie come to confirm their relationship officially to others because, well, they have nothing to hide or be shamed about.

And then there comes another change into their life. Due to his recent failure in business and marriage, Addie’s son Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts) asks his mother to take care of his young son Jamie (Iain Armitage) for a while, and Addie has no problem with that at all. As he spends his days under Addie and Louis’ care, Jamie becomes close to Addie and Louis, and there is a warm, gentle moment when they later go camping together outside the town.

While there are some expected moments of conflict later in the story, the movie keeps leisurely moving along its episodic moments, and the adapted screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, which is based on the novel of the same name by Kent Haruf (it was his last work before his death in 2014, by the way), never lets the story fall into cheap sappiness. Neustadter and Weber, who previously entertained us a lot with their witty and heartfelt screenplays for “(500) Days of Summer” (2009) and “The Spectacular Now” (2013), balances the story well between humor and sentimentality, and the dialogues in the film seldom feel false as they are delivered with considerable frankness and sincerity by the performers in the film.

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Effortless in their laid-back chemistry on the screen, Fonda and Redford, who previously worked together in “The Chase” (1966), “Barefoot in the Park” (1967), and “The Electric Horseman” (1979), clearly enjoy their time together as their characters tentatively dance around each other, and their engaging performances took me back to their long, impressive acting careers. While he will always be remembered for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and “The Sting” (1973), Redford gave many other stellar performances for many years, and “All is Lost” (2013) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) recently confirmed to us that he has lost none of his star presence yet. Although she retired from acting for 15 years after “Stanley & Iris” (1990), Fonda slowly returned to the screen after that period, and her recent success with TV series “Grace and Frankie” demonstrated that her career, which is filled with many good performances including her Oscar-winning turns in “Klute” (1971) and “Coming Home” (1978), is far from being over.

While the movie is basically Fonda and Redford’s show, several notable supporting performers surrounding them are also fine in their small roles. While Bruce Dern, who once played along with Redford in “The Great Gatsby” (1974) and with Fonda in “Coming Home” (1978), plays one of Louis’ friends, Judy Greer is touching in her single scene, and Matthias Schoenaerts has his own moment when Gene reveals his longtime grudge toward his mother. In case of young performer Iain Armitage, who was memorable as one of the supporting characters in HBO TV miniseries “Big Little Lies” (2017), he simply wins our heart right from his first appearance, and Phyllis Somerville provides a small salty fun as Addie’s close friend.

“Our Souls at Night”, which is currently available on Netflix, is directed by Ritesh Batra, who previously made “The Lunchbox” (2013) and “The Sense of an Ending” (2017). Like these two movies, “Our Souls at Night” is also a well-made adult drama equipped with fine performances, and I enjoyed its sensitive mood and storytelling while savoring what is accomplished by Redford and Fonda. They are indeed old, but they are still stars to watch, and I admire that.

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