Old Joy, Kelly Reichardt’s tiny, much-praised gem, has a number of excellent uses around the house. For one thing, if there are any action-movie junkies you really hate, strap them down and force them to watch this film — they’ll be begging for mercy after the first exquisitely slow, wordless scene. Secondly, if you have blank wall space that needs filling, blow up any of cinematographer Peter Sillen’s achingly lovely images of the Oregon backwoods.
Mostly, though, Old Joy is a tonic for our ADD culture and a striking, unsettling tale of the death of idealism. Two former best friends, both progressive lefties, take one last hike into the Cascades: Mark (Daniel London) has a kid on the way and a yen for maturity, while Kurt (Will Oldham) pushes responsibility away and sticks to the fraying dream. (In the director’s words on the spare commentary track, Kurt ”walks a line between being a nomad and being homeless.”)
They’ll probably never see each other again, of course. In the hushed journey there and back, the two men keep switching places in our estimation, and who you ultimately think is ”right” will say more about you than them. Attuned to the sounds of waterfalls and wildlife and all the things not said, Old Joy is as close as movies get to haiku. A