Standing in front of the small theater in Pittsburgh’s East End, we greeted Daniel London, a co-star of the film Old Joy, which was being shown as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival. There was no red carpet, no sign of Joan Rivers or her daughter and no paparazzi as we said hello to Dan, the son of our friends Alan and Elaine London.
Dan described the film, which has been receiving rave reviews, as a “small” movie, but this one has an incredible punch. Running only 76 minutes, Old Joy tells the tale of two friends who embark together on a camping weekend. They are trying to regain something of the selves they were in their youth, but as we all know, trying to resurrect the past is difficult at best, and painful always.
Will Oldham, left and Daniel London, right, in Old Joy
I suppose the term small depends on the perspective of those seated in the audience. At a local multi-theater complex, we had recently sat through 20 minutes of movie previews and found them all to be slam bam violence fests. Small in the case of Old Joy meant a movie that we could watch, understand and that would stir something inside each of those seated in the theater.
I’m betting that this movie touches everyone who sees it because we have all had friends -- and lives -- we’ve lost. Time changes us as we move along our life’s path, and we already know you can’t go home again. But maybe a movie like this appeals to us so much because it’s reassuring to know that we aren’t alone in that regret, that it's shared by everyone else too.
Maybe -- we tell ourselves -- with a little more effort we could bring something from that old life back, relive some of that old joy. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful?
By Teresa K. Flatley