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Our Souls At Night Movie Review: It Is A Lyrical Elegiac Autumnal Masterpiece!



Our Souls At Night

Starring: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda

Directed by: Ritesh Batra

Rating: *****(5 Stars)

 It starts quietly, and ends without drama , melo-  or otherwise. After The Lunchboxand its tad disappointing followup The Sense  Of  An Ending,  you know  how it is  with Ritesh Batra. This is a  filmmaker who loves silence and embraces  it with all its inbuilt hazards and uncertainties. We’ve seen him work wonders with wordless emotions in  his earlier works.So no surprise if here he once again weaves a luminous lucidity  into the looming stillness of  a landscape  that won’t judge mankind .Kindly  or otherwise.

With Our Souls At Night, a deeply stirring gentle  humane drama about two autumnal  souls drifting together in ways that The Bridges Of Madison County could never fathom, Batra joins the  ranks of  the greatest living filmmakers.And we are not speaking of India alone. Batra  is a talent that exceeds boundaries beyond belief.

Just think. An Indian director directs  two of Hollywood most iconic legendary actors. It would have sufficed that Batra doesn’t allow himself to get overawed in the august presence  of Robert Redford and  Jane Fonda.  But that is not enough for this director. Having given them to play lonely old characters hungering for company –in short humanizing them  to the point of completely denuding them of their mythical status—Batra then proceeds to bring them together in a tale  so  soft slender tender and fragile,  it could easily lapse into insignificant  understatement(I felt that way about Batra’s The Sense Of An Ending).

This  is where Batra scores over other modern filmmaker who deal with human relationships on a lowkey decibel. He strips Fonda and Redford of all their  Hollywood-legend aura and yet preserves all their charisma. The more vulnerable and  human they become , the more we embrace their  inadequacies for what they are: legacies of mortality embedded in immortal personalities.

This remarkably quiet film opens with Fonda playing the stately but broken Addie, knocking on her neighbour Louis(Redford)’s door one night with an offer he dare not resist.

Since we are  both so devoid  of companionship,why don’t we sleep together?  Addie suggests, From there, Batra’s screenwriters(Scott Neustadter, Michael Weber) build on Kent Haruf’s  slender  story of old age and solitude, into  a reverberant requiem on life  and  mortality.

Besides the    sheer beauty and harmony with which Batra textures the protagonists’ gentle journey  , the film is also unforgettable for  the way it is shot.The  green stillness of  small-town Colorado is such  a  befitting counterpoint to the film’s ode to lonely hearts ,it is almost as though the director’s vision is in collusion with his characters’ inner landscape.

Batra is  never in a hurry to build Redford and Fonda’s relationship. The warmth and  glow that creeps up into their friendship is as organically achieved as the gentle sunrises and sunsets  that peek over the Colorado skyline. Our Souls At Night is  very beautiful film.And cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt must be credited for capturing the sublimity of  the Coloradan landscape without fawning over it.
Our Souls At Night is a film  whose rippling  resonances will  follow us into many nights to come. The film is not afraid to let the characters think while we wait for them to articulate their thoughts. A major part of  the film’s magic comes from  Redford-Fonda’s togetherness. Watching these two stalwarts  come together to serenade the vicissitudes of vulnerability is a pleasure that  far transcends the thrill of two superstars making a comeback.

Redford and  Fonda are joined by  some exceptionally unassuming actors. MatthiasSchoenaerts as Fonda’s son and Judy Greer as Redford’s daughter leave a very strong impact in their limited screen-time.This is  possibly to  do with the fact that they speak lines which reveal devastating lapses in the protagonists’ past.  But it’s the little  boy Iain Armitage playing Fonda’s grandson who proves a major turning-point in the plot, providing, as it were,  a point of innocence and reclamation in a story that repudiates all the benefits of dramatic  construction and tension to simply meditate on  the mellowness of  existence.

This  is   a film of  wondrous eloquence, where words are not allowed to get in the way of the feelings.The background score(Elliot Goldenthal) merges so seamlessly with the goings-on that  we never get to know when this little film with a big heart just steals away a part of us never to return it to us again.

And that’s  perfectly in sync with what the film desires to say about the irretrievable  losses of life. No  point in mourning over what’s gone Our Souls At Night celebrates  life without fanfare or frenzy. Meditative, melancholic and elegiac it is as perfect a portrait of lives well spent and unrepentant of past transgressions,  as any we’ve seen on screen.

Our Souls At Night  released on Netflix on September 29.

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