Our Souls at Night stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in a quiet story about a pair of elders who have been neighbors for years. They finally get to know each other. It expands them both.
Louis Waters (Redford) and Addie Moore (Fonda) know the externals of each other lives. They’ve been neighbors for 40 years. But they don’t really know each other. That changes the night Addie knocks on Louis’ door and tells him she can’t sleep. She invites him over to sleep with her.
He thinks about it – nothing happens fast at their age – and a couple of nights later they begin sleeping together.
For weeks that’s all they do: sleep. They don’t touch or cuddle, they sleep side by side. They talk. They talk about their regrets, their failures, their joys, their sorrows.
Everyone in their small Colorado town knows Louis is walking over to Addie’s house every night. Louis’ coffee buddies at the cafe, lead by an obnoxious Dorlan (Bruce Dern), tease him in stupid ways. Addie’s friend Ruth (Phyllis Somerville) knows all about it before Addie tells her.
They decide they might as well go public and head out for Sunday lunch so everyone can get a good look at them together.
As parents, both of them have damaged children. Children they damaged themselves. Louis’ daughter Holly (Judy Greer) pays a visit. Addie’s son Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts) comes by and leaves his son behind. Gene’s wife left them and he’s lost his business, so Grandma must step up while he pulls it together.
Having Addie’s grandson Jamie (Iain Armitage) around brings Addie and Louis even closer. They band together to entertain him. Louis lets him play with an old electric train. They go camping. They go to a baseball game. Louis teaches Jamie how to throw a baseball. They get him a dog. And, they continue to share a bed.
Gene picks up Jamie and takes him home.
Addie and Louis head to Denver for a weekend in a nice hotel. They dance, they finally have sex. They’re happy together. And, of course, it falls apart.
It isn’t the ending I wanted, with Addie and Louis sharing a peaceful domestic life together. But they find a way to make it work, despite what life throws at them. They find a way to connect their souls at night.
Our Souls at Night is slow and quiet. It’s a character study, not a thriller. Watching Fonda and Redford inch toward each other is the chief attraction.
I’m at the same stage in life as Fonda and Redford. I was impressed to see them sitting on the floor with Jamie or sleeping on the ground in a tent. I couldn’t do it. Maybe there were three strong men hidden behind the camera who helped them up and down for these scenes – I would need that.
Whether the joints are getting creaky isn’t the issue. The big deal is these two older humans are as vital and alive as anyone of any age. They have joys and sorrows, they cherish human contact, and they can love mightily.
It’s wonderful to see people my age on the screen and not have the story be about dementia or dying. It’s wonderful to see people my age on the screen and not have the elders be jokes or punch lines. If you’re lucky enough to be alive, you turn into an old person with every day you live. We need more stories like Our Souls at Night that explore the lives of ordinary elders in truthful and realistic ways. Representation matters.
In the Colorado sunshine, the colors are vivid and bright. There’s nothing dark and shadowy in the direction or the look of the film. That light and open feeling matters. Every frame tells you the lives of old people are not dark and bleak.
Ritesh Batra directed Our Souls at Night. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.