2 Stars – Empty
The recent film production of I’ll See You in My Dreams is depressing. That is not to say that it is not good cinema or that the performance of Blythe Danner is not noteworthy. It is the shallow emptiness of the lives of the characters portrayed that saddens us. Life is meant to be lived with purpose. It is meant to be lived with love. It is meant to be more than just the longing of dreams. For humanity, life is a spiritual existence in which we reach up to God and out to others as spiritual beings beginning eternal relationships that will continue. But the people in this tale settle for little to nothing that matters and seem to not realize the quality of life they are missing.
Written and directed by Brett Haley with the assistance of Marc Basch, this Sundance favorite tells the story of septuagenarian Carol Peterson (Blythe Danner). Having lost her husband twenty years earlier, Carol has settled into a predictable routine that is interrupted when her dog of fourteen years dies. This loss creates a longing for relationship and opens Carol to change.
The change comes in three forms. First, a new pool boy shows up in her yard. Lloyd (Martin Starr) is a wannabe singer who notices a picture of Carol taken when she was singing in a band as a young woman. This connection begins an unlikely but understandable friendship. The second change is the charming comment of a ruggedly handsome older man named Bill (Sam Elliott). Noticing her in the grocery store trying to select the appropriate vitamins, he tells her that she doesn’t need them because she is fine just the way she is. This moment begins a romantic journey that has been missing in both of their lives for years.
The third change occurs when her three friends, Georgina (June Squibb), Sally (Rhea Perlman) and Rona (Mary Kay Place) encourage her to break out of her placid life and take a risk. She responds by going to a speed-dating night for older people at the retirement home and going on a “medical” marijuana trip with her three friends. Both of these provide some comic moments but in a way only increases the pathos of their lives. Even her daughter Kathryn (Malin Akerman) characterizes her mom as usually “self-absorbed”.
Getting older is not intended to be an empty journey towards inevitable oblivion, nor is life only to be lived in our dreams. When Carol begins to accept change and reach out, she is met with a shallow mortality that reinforces the film’s purposeless view. If this is all life is, then we can agree with the sardonic writer of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes when he began with the words: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” But thankfully, that is not true as the God of Love created us for fellowship with Him and others in a shared and unending life.
- Carol explains that she is living off the life insurance of her deceased husband. Do you think this provision was a blessing or a curse in her life? Why do you answer as you do?
- The connection of music allowed Carol and Lloyd to share a friendship despite their age difference of about forty years. Do you believe their friendship distracts or enriches their lives? Have you shared a friendship with someone decades older or younger than you? If so, how did that friendship impact your life?
- It makes powerful drama for Carol to finally find the man of her dreams only to lose him. Ultimately, does this relationship impact Carol’s character in a positive or negative way? Why do you answer as you do?