Soon to be a father, Mark (Daniel London) feels the pressure of domestic responsibility closing in, so he is more than happy to accept when his old friend Kurt (Will Oldham) proposes a camping trip in the Oregon wilderness. During their time together, the men come to grips with the changes in their lives and the effect on their relationship.
Although summertime is nearing its end this year, there’s nothing quite like a great road trip movie to brighten up your day. Depending on which one, that is. My all-time favorite has to be National Lampoon’s Vacation, which is a non-stop laugh riot thanks to its amazing script and wonderfully humorous performances from Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. But also among my favorites is Little Miss Sunshine, which is easily one of the most unconventional and beautiful coming-of-age stories ever told.
But for a while now, I kept hearing about a film called Old Joy that many of my friends have watched and called it a masterpiece. I’ve been meaning to watch it for months now, but have simply been occupied with other movies for a long time. Today, however, I wasn’t sure what t to watch. As I was going through my watchlist, I realized that Old Joy was still on the list and so I figured today would be a perfect day to check it out for the first time. I’m incredibly glad that I did.
Old Joy is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and realistic movies I have ever seen. There are going to be hundreds or maybe even thousands of people that will watch this film and call it boring. They will say that absolutely nothing happens in it and it has no reason to exist. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more.
Although the film is a depiction of an ordinary camping trip between two friends, it always feels like it’s so much more. The film doesn’t want to be an extremely dramatic film which is what I thought it was going to be. Instead, it wants to depict the beauty of everyday life and the wonders that can come with camping.
The last time I was on a camping trip was to Washington to see Mount Rushmore with my family back in 2018. It took us several gets to get there but I vividly remember how much fun it was along the way. Stopping at various different campsites, exploring the world, and seeing places I’ve never seen before was a blast and I will always have fond memories of my camping trips. Watching Old Joy brought back those touching and beautiful moments from my camping trips. It reminded me of how amazing the outdoors can be and how nice it is to spend time with the ones you love most.
In this film, we follow two friends named Mark and Kurt as they drive to a hot spring to relax for the day and a mountain range in Portland, Oregon. Absolutely nothing dramatic or crazy happens along the way, which will certainly come as a disappointment for many viewers. For me though, it is something that I greatly appreciated. It’s such an immensely quiet and peaceful film that it almost feels like therapy at times. Watching these two men enjoy the outdoors and go on this journey together brought me a ton of joy, no pun intended.
It’s a movie that is so incredibly well-paced and awe-inspiring despite its extremely short seventy-six minute running time. It never feels like it outstays its welcome but it also never feels too short. Along the way, we are also treated to some of the most gorgeous and well-framed cinematography these eyes have seen in quite some time. Director of photography Peter Sillen’s work here is a work of art. There are several unbreaking shots of the passing trees and lush scenery as Mark and Kurt drive by in their car, plenty of shots of mountaintops, and more. All in all, Old Joy is a staggeringly peaceful and relaxing film with an amazing sense of calm and security lingering throughout. There are no tricks up director Kelly Reichardt’s sleeves here. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Old Joy is a staggeringly beautiful and relaxing road film with stellar cinematography and a grounded portrayal of an ordinary camping trip.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: N/A
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Distributed by: Kino International
Release Date: August 25, 2006
Running Time: 76 minutes