On an overnight camping trip in Oregons Cascade Mountains, longtime pals Kurt (Oldham), a moony bohemian with no fixed address, and Mark (London), a married, middle-class striver with a baby on the way, discover they have a lot less in common than they once did. As they trek to a hot spring, neither quite knows how to bridge the gap between them.
Mapping the psychic places where old friendships go to die, Reichardt's two-man (and one dog) road picture subverts the buddy drama with its slow, somber rhythm and air of unspoken longing. Kurt, a flaky, pot-smoking New Age type ably played by real-life musician Oldham, desperately wants communion with his more grounded friend Mark, who denies that anything is wrong, though his face and body language tell a different story. Reichardt's poetic evocation of their bucolic surroundings — birds, trees, woodlands — add to the tinge of unsettling melancholy. "Old Joy" might feel slow and plotless to some, but patient viewers will be rewarded by this film's subtle, near-wordless study of amicable alienation. It has the tang of truth.