Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 35 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 0; Language 5; Sex/Nudity 5.
Our star rating (0-5): 4
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other.
Indie director/writers Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz have given us a delightful road trip film for geriatrics. Think of it as Easy Rider for the members of the AARP, but minus the violence of that earlier film odyssey.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Eenhoorn) travels from Seattle to the Kentucky home of his former brother-in-law, Colin (Paul Nelson). The two had married sisters, enjoyed one another’s company, but then had moved away from each other. It has been years since Colin had divorced his wife, and, apparently learning that Mitch’s wife had just died, he wants a reunion with his old friend—indeed, as it turns out, far more than one involving them sitting in rocking chairs and recalling the past. Mitch, still smoking pot and feeling lustful, has too many things he still wants to do.
Right away we see how different these two are. A retired American doctor with a big nest egg and a mouth that will not stop, he tells the Australian-American Colin that he has bought two airline tickets for Reykjavik, Iceland. Colin once a French horn player in an orchestra and now a bank employee, has little money and, in his present state of mourning the loss of his wife, has no desire to travel, especially on the tab of his friend. However, Mitch has been use to getting his way, so soon the two are disembarking at the Icelandic airport.
When Mitch learns that his second-cousin Ellen and her friend Janet (Karrie Crouse and Elizabeth McKee) are planning to stop over in Iceland, he and Colin pick up the girls at the airport. Both are PhD candidates at Columbia, one of them in anthropology. Disliking their nondescript traveling clothes, Mitch sends them to a dress shop on his tab, telling them he wants to see them in something more sexy (though he doesn’t use that word). When they return in simple tunics and tights, he is clearly disappointed. Mitch may be in his 70s, but he does not need any of the viagra touted on TV.
They dine at a fancy restaurant and accompany the girls to a disco, but wisely, the two men stand by the bar and watch while the girls gyrate with the crowd, all of whom are considerably younger than the two onlookers. I was relieved at this restraint, the filmmakers never trying to force the characters into cutesy situations found in the films featuring old people of bygone days. One of the girls gets sick, and so the night ends with the three helping her back to the hotel.
The next day the girls resume their journey, and the two old codgers take off in a rented van to explore the beauty of the countryside. And plenty of beauty there is—mountains in the distance, flowing streams to ford, a mist producing water fall, black-sand beaches, and spouting guysers. (The sights, so lovingly photographed ought to draw more visitors to that country!) Along the way Colin becomes so fed up with Mitch’s controlling way and inappropriate comments that they split for a few hours, but the breach is soon closed. Colin has an encounter with a black woman, Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke), that brings a measure of healing, and Mitch tells a secret to his friend about his recent past, revealing that much of his outlandishness is a cover for his inner pain.
This is a small film that probably will garner a small audience—after all, the main characters are two old geezers; there are no car chases or shootouts or aliens requiring special effects. The closest incident that might be suspenseful is when they stop at the first rushing stream they have to ford and wonder how deep it is in the middle. All we have are two men traveling in a foreign country while seeking something that neither could put into words. They are both secular souls, neither evincing any trace of faith. If they ever begin to think what might lie beyond the death that will overtake them in a few years, that will have to be the subject of another movie. This one is about the joy of living that Mitch clings to even in his advanced years, and which he wants his friend to experience as well. That Colin does regain it through Nadine is due to Mitch’s generosity, and of course, redounds to his friend’s credit.
The review with discussion questions will appear in the September issue of Visual Parables.