During the summer blockbuster season, it’s easy for smaller, more offbeat and adventurous movies to get lost in the shuffle. Every Tuesday for the next six weeks, local film writer and alumnus Paul Matwychuk (’93 English & Film Studies, ’98 LLB) will come to your aid by highlighting a cinematic “hidden gem”— a movie that deserves your attention, even if you might not be aware it exists.
Midway through the new dramedy I’ll See You in My Dreams, we’re presented with a sight that’s exceedingly rare in American movies: an elderly couple, together in bed, at the end of a date. They’ve clearly just had sex, and they’ve clearly both enjoyed the experience a lot, but the situation isn’t played for comedy, or embarrassment or for gross-out shock value. Nor is it presented condescendingly, or with twinkle-eyed sentimentality — two cute old dears nuzzling under the sheets. Instead, it’s depicted as what happens when two attractive people find themselves drawn to each other. It’s depicted as the most natural thing in the world.
Not that their night together doesn’t mean a lot to both of them. The woman is Carol (played by the still-radiant 72-year-old Blythe Danner), a onetime singer who gave up her music career to become a teacher, and then retired early on the insurance settlement from the airplane crash that killed her husband. That was 20 years ago, and she hasn’t so much been on a date since then — and while she tells the women she golfs and plays bridge with that she likes her well-ordered solitary life, she does seem to need a few glasses of white wine to get through the day. The man is Bill (played by the 71-year-old Sam Elliott, the very embodiment of old-school gentleman-cowboy charm), who’s also re-entering the dating scene after spending a few years alone. He’s lost none of his skills as a ladykiller, though — when he first spots Carol in the neighbourhood drugstore, he sidles up to her, gestures toward the pile of vitamin supplements in her basket, and in that honeyed Sam Elliott drawl, he tells her, “You know, you don’t need any of that stuff. You’re perfect the way you are.” Swoon!
It’s depicted as what happens when two attractive people find themselves drawn to each other. It’s depicted as the most natural thing in the world.
I’ll See You in My Dreams debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Festival, where it must have seemed a little out of place among so many other films by quirky young directors telling stories about quirky young people. This is a warm and gently funny movie, but there’s nothing quirky on display. Even when Carol strikes up a friendship with her much younger poolboy (Martin Starr), their age difference is barely remarked upon — why shouldn’t two people who enjoy each other’s company hang out once in a while? Or even go to karaoke night together?
I’ll See You in My Dreams is a quiet, understated movie, and one could argue that maybe its tone is a little too sedate and placid, that it fits in a little too well with the tasteful muted-colour decor of Carol’s home. But it’s refreshing to see a film about older people falling in love that is more about those people than it is about old age. At the same time, it suggests that you’re never too old to have interesting new people enter your life — and even if they leave before you’d like them to, well, you can always close your eyes and spend some time with them that way. That’s what dreams are for.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is playing at Edmonton’s Princess Theatre.
Directed by Brett Haley. Written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch. Starring Blythe Danner, Martin Starr and Sam Elliott.
Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.