The “Otherworldly Peaceful” Worlds:
All Kelly Reichardt Films Ranked
“My films are about people who don’t have a safety net…”
What does it feel to not have anyone to go home to? What does it feel to not have anything to look forward to? How is life when nothing is planned? Well…Life is, in fact, all that happens in between when we are all busy making plans. Kelly Reichardt is a master when it comes to accumulating the lives of such people, people without a plan and people with no regard or reverence for their beating hearts. As frightening as it might seem, I believe it is also quite adventurous and perhaps even relaxing.
These heaps of indifferent and feeble voices carry the laid-back narratives of her films forward. I remember how my father always compared a life without any plans or actions to a ship without a sail. But doesn’t this mindless floating feel so serene from Reichardt’s lens? Every time I watch a gem by Reichardt, I feel relieved knowing that I am not the only one who feels like a vagabond. I am not perhaps the only one feeling like I do not belong anywhere. Reichardt’s characters offer me their fuzzy companionship and a bit of respite.
The slumber inaction in the lives of these characters seems to spill even over to her narrative style, which has everything but action. The typical Hollywood framework of a tight narrative causality takes a backseat. The world can wait while Reichardt’s world takes all the time to unfold. It is a world of standstill that relishes waiting, almost like watching a caterpillar metamorphose into a butterfly or a wildlife photographer waiting for a woodpecker to come out of its hole.
A vehement advocate of slow cinema, Kelly Reichardt is seamless in her ways of bringing out femininity in masculinity. A breeze of a composed feminine touch blows across her filmic universe cutting through the gales of hyper-masculine sentiments. Characters, whether men or women have a way of letting their guards off and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. In the vulnerability lies their strength. These characters almost seem to be desexualized beings experiencing and exhibiting emotions and circumstances that are so universal. Such is the power of Cinema; that of Reichardt’s, to be precise; the power to reverse power dynamics so that humanity emerges as the victor.
In this world of indifferent beings resides an unearthly peace, the peace akin to a ship without a sail. Maybe it will drown; who knows? The beauty of it, however, lies in those few seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even years that it continues to float aimlessly. That is the life in the world of Kelly Reichardt. With no money in their pocket, perhaps just a car and a dog or a set of clothes as their belongings, characters emanating out of Reichardt’s lens are beings who rediscover and find themselves again in the places they grew up in. And in their exploration lies Reichardt’s own reimagination of the places and the spaces she grew up. It is personal, and hence, it is creative.
The following is a list of all of Kelly Reichardt’s evergreen films ranked in order of personal preference. Some you might agree with, some you might not, but either way, you should take a dip into the slumber waters of this world and float across with me. Believe me, it’s worth it.
8. Night Moves (2013)
Why does the conscience ache if we know we are right? Why does it become so grueling to survive if we know we did all for good? Some decisions look easier when the outcome is comprehended superficially. But reality always has a different plan. On the fruition of the decision, it all looks and feels different from the picture visualized in the mind. Night Moves (2013) upholds one such grotesque picture of harsh reality and an unanticipated fear. Fear to lose, fear of revenge, and fear to cease to exist.
Reichardt, for the first time, projects an uncomfortable claustrophobia of the unknown. It is perhaps one of the first instances where peace seems only superficially hiding a drilling anxiety and disgust in its garb. The same woods, the same lush greenery, and the same ardor towards nature, but it all feels claustrophobic.
The air feels polluted with fumes of impending doom. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are seen to share a certain dynamic in their relationship towards the beginning of the film. It seems quite mixed because Reichardt makes it interesting through their visual contrast in temperament. As they are joined by Hermon (Peter Sarsgaard), the contrast in the duo’s relationship becomes even more evident.
As Josh maintains a perennially intense face throughout, he is rather irritated by Dena’s tendency to go overboard with emotions. In the middle of all this, it is notable how the trio’s mutual bond and understanding changes its course with the gradual progression towards the crime; two staunch environmentalists, along with an ex-mariner, bombard a hydroelectric dam on account of its ability to pollute and poison the environment.
The post-crime scenario thereafter witnesses the trio’s relationship become even more nauseating. Josh and Harmon try their best to be okay, but Dena loses her calm and is totally disheveled. The remnant of their crime is perhaps left in the lost life of a camper staying nearby. The sprightly and vivacious waters flowing out of the dam in the opening sequence become a memory.
It is interesting how Reichardt, subverting convention, chooses to begin the film from the climactic moment of bombarding the dam rather than ending it there. This provides a clear idea of her stance. Imagine the film ending there? It would have been a story of success. But with the present scenario, the story gives voice to the repercussions of the climactic thrill. The story therefore becomes one projecting paranoia, almost playing the ticking sound of the same time bomb in the head that the trio had used to bombard the dam. Silence grows deafening, and glances send chills down the spine. Is this Reichardt? We wonder.
Well, yes, it is! Reichardt, while firmly projecting her voice, also ensures she does not lose her cinematic essence. While she portrays the plight after having immovable faith in staunch ideals and rigid beliefs that often prove to be baseless, she also creates space for the possibility of starting afresh by ‘moving on.’ Life, even after acute devastation, springs out like a shoot sprouting out of a germinating seed.
Even after blood in his hands and a heart full of repentance for committing two crimes consecutively, Josh still musters up the courage to walk past them. He is seen to throw off his sim card and start a new life with a new job, almost like a new person with a new name with no relation to his past. There is tranquillity and a sigh of hope.
But what if the demons of the Past return to haunt Josh? Will Josh survive them?
7. Wendy and Lucy (2008)
The first character that drew me close to Reichardt was Lucy, the dog. The journey of Reichardt as a filmmaker from Old Joy (2006) to Wendy and Lucy (2008) perhaps had Lucy as the sole witness and point of connection. Besides, Lucy also seems to make the film a sort of continuation from the point Old Joy (2006) had ended. What if Wendy is only a feminine take or a female counterpart to Mark from Old Joy?
Placing the two stories side by side fashioned in a manner of driving connections does tend to make the films way more interesting. With Lucy being one of the core anchors to Mark to make him remind him of his present, she gradually traverses to become the sole companion for Wendy to look forward to a probable future.
With an almost penniless wallet and only a car, Wendy has set out to Alaska with Lucy, where she plans on settling for a job. As mentioned earlier in Kelly Reichardt’s introduction, she always works her way through to make her characters into a group of desexualized beings who could be connected with everyone irrespective of their sex or gender. This factor further simplifies the understanding of Wendy’s comparison with Mark.
As Mark acts as a representation of a stage of life where he has moved on but takes a moment to pause and has Lucy to get him going with his present, Wendy seems done with the chapters of a ‘sorted’ past and moves ahead towards a future again with Lucy as her sole motivation to do well in life. Either way, it is this silent creature bereft of the gift of words that silently becomes an instrumental driving force in each of the character’s lives, whether Mark or Wendy.
The film is not as much about the companionship of a dog and a human as much as it is about the absence of it due to parting. As hopeless and helpless as Wendy is, one wrong decision of shoplifting dog food from a local grocery store brings about her doom or the knell of separation from her only companion. The act of illegality that she decides to undertake becomes the sole reason for parting.
Actually, whether a dog or a human, it doesn’t matter! What matters is the companionship and the immense sense of responsibility binding the two companions together. The wide-angled shots of Oregon streets, forests, and Wendy’s meditative spree send us back to our thoughts regarding Reichardt’s nihilistic fervor. Nothing! Nothing! You look around, and there is nothing—no trace found.
Unlike life, Reichardt’s cinematic universe is fair in its way of replicating life. Why I say so is because of the end. Nothing is gained again! After a long day’s toil, what do you expect? A Win? Well, that is a utopian world. You get a win only on some days out of a zillion because happiness is an “occasional episode,” as Thomas Hardy had eased it for us by saying out loud the real nature of life’s unfairness.
There does happen to be a flicker of happiness and respite as Wendy gets to know about Lucy, but well… she lets her go because reality hits her hard. Lucy might not be with her companion; she might have accidentally landed somewhere unknown but has a better life. What is love if it does not lead one to consciously choose sacrifice?
Did Wendy ever come back to Lucy? Well, I guess we will never know.
6. Certain Women (2016)
Women are not all about strength, boldness, and empowerment. Neither are they all about fragility, meekness, and obedience. They are, instead, a balance of both. Or maybe imbalance? Who knows? It is notable how they could be gales of a devastating storm and a serene meadow of bright yellow mustard flowers all at once. There could be an ocean of tumultuous insecurities and emotions pricking them at a time, yet they keep pushing their ships forward. Such are women and ‘certainly’ ‘Certain women.’
Reichardt, in her typical spree, places women and their intricate complexities at the center to indicate an invisible link between them. Three stories. Four women. Yet the universal theme of striking a balance between a multitude of emotions, prioritizing, and pushing hard to sail through. They all know how alone they are when it comes to their true sense of being, echoing Reichardt’s general tendency to project loneliness in a crowd and her bid to celebrate harmony in chaos.
What is new and common in this bunch of stories is how they are all stories of guilty women. Over and above all, Reichardt never for a second portrays these stories as one that screams women empowerment, thereby shattering the very hue and cry regarding the depiction of women as the central protagonist. Instead, she treats them all as ‘individuals’ by ‘humanizing’ them and taking their empowerment for granted. This, in my opinion, is the greatest sign of empowering women; to never take ‘power’ as a miracle or a gift.
Guilt, however, is a negative emotion, and Reichardt does not shy away from depicting how her women, namely Laura, Gina, and Beth, have indeed chosen themselves over the ‘other.’ This ‘otherization’ hasn’t been deliberate or even willingly selfish, but the end result, however, boils down to crude selfishness. But again, it isn’t fully black or white. It is never that direct. Laura (Laura Dern) does seem hopeless and helpless when she is incapable of making her point clear to her frazzled client that his case has no end.
Finally, on witnessing him going out of control by keeping the security guard hostage, Laura tricks him with her trust to come out to the police. That, perhaps, was her only way out of the situation. She chose herself, and yet she felt guilty. So does Gina (Michelle Williams) when she persuades the old man Albert to sell his treasured sandstones to her so that she can build a shelter from the ground.
Her husband and daughter neglect her, and neither of them truly has an involvement in this decision except for her husband accompanying her to Albert. She understands that the pile of sandstones is memorable and valuable to Albert and yet chooses her needs over his. Later when Albert does not smile back at her, she is hit by the same emotion that Laura had experienced: guilt. The third story dealing with two women, one Jamie (Lily Gladstone) and the other Beth (Kristen Stewart), feels like an incomplete love story. As Jamie, a ranch hand encounters Beth at a class on education law, we understand how the former hopelessly desires the latter’s company.
They spend consecutive days together when suddenly Beth decides to return to Livingstone. Well, astonishingly enough, Jamie drives all the way to Livingstone just to meet her, but eventually, their meeting does not look like one destined to consummate. Beth, too, chooses herself. Can we say that it doesn’t prick her? Never.
Reichardt’s genius in connecting these stories comes visually as we witness Laura entering the same room where Jamie has entered to enquire about Beth, almost as if she picks up each story from where she left it. It is like a tape recorder playing songs on a loop. Besides, she also ensures to bring to the fore the repercussions of each woman. Surprisingly enough, the third story shows the plight of Jamie and not Beth, perhaps because it is important to ‘move on.’ Given the fact that the third story is still fresh in the memory as it is the last, it becomes important to speak of Jamie, whose heart never got a chance to open, neither to Beth nor to us.
Of the three, I wonder what Beth would be like after a year. Would she look back on Jamie just like Laura and Gina did on their ‘others’? All women are certain of their complexities, and so are ‘Certain Women’.
5. River of Grass (1994)
A comfortable numbness seems to be spread all over the film like a colorful wallpaper. There is distress, misery, lamentation for the past, and a fair bit of sorrow, but all of this uniquely feels so colorful in the cinematic universe Reichardt conjures up in the film. Set in the Broward and Dade counties of Florida (literally nicknamed “River of Grass”), the film feels like walking barefoot on grass, an indication of a youthful yet uncertain stride unknown of what is to come on the way to soothe or prick the feet.
What happens when you bring out old photographs? When you wipe the dust off from an old CD of your 5th birthday party? Don’t we all build a story lining up those remnants of the past one after another? Perhaps, a better way to put it would be to consider that the stories already exist. The past has already happened, seamlessly dissolved into the present, and lives on as remnants in us. It is we who make an attempt to connect those dots.
The pictures, likewise, at the beginning of the film connected with a voiceover is quite a quintessential trope, but the essence it leads us to is a refreshing one. Despite those connections we are made to draw in our minds, the narrator remains disconnected. The isolation seems to be communicated so casually that it seems unreal, almost unearthly, as if the narrator is joking.
But Cozy is cozy in holding on to the essence of her Past and has accepted that nothing is the same. Unlike Mark, the protagonist in Old Joy (2006), Cozy looks back at her familiar past but is welcoming toward a life of carefree desperation. She is seen walking on thin walls, dancing through them, and mindlessly closing her eyes with lifted arms, almost welcoming the uncertainty of her present and the darkness of her future.
She is bereft of emotions for her family and her husband but again, can we really say that? At various points in the film, as we see and listen to the thoughts running through her mind, we do see her collate her past with the present. She seems connected and disconnected at the same time.
On the other end of the narrative, Lee is a social outcast, randomly sweeping through life with violent streaks. It is strange how Reichardt makes Cozy and Lee cross paths and imbibe each other’s spirits into their persona. While Cozy grows prone to violence day by day, Lee develops the desire to be calm and settle with a job. They meet at a point in their lives where they both desire a wind of change. What attracted the two of them was their opposing nature. While Cozy was from a sheltered space, Lee was a hippie-like fellow open to breaking into violence at any point.
They thought they could bring about their desired wind of change with each other around. However, crisis ensues when neither of them gets the self of the other that they desire. As Lee tries to calm down, imbibing the long-lost spirit of Cozy, Cozy gives in to her newly developed, impulsively violent streak and shoots Lee.
The gun, which basically belonged to Cozy’s father, had been the connection between the two opposing personalities of Lee and Cozy, along with a string attaching Cozy to her ‘composed’ past. She was ready to be all wild, and on shooting Lee, she threw the gun out of the car right away, thereby ending all her ties with a meek and docile married life.
Speaking throughout the story of a fugitive duo, River of Grass (1994) is no Pierrot Le Fou (1965) or even Thelma and Louise (1991) but a unique take pushing the boundaries of thrillers and approaching a nihilistic shore of thought.
It is a thriller bereft of the thrill.
4. Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
“Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.”
Watching the vast expanse of barren land all over the film, these lines by Robert Louis Stevenson are all that is invoked in me with the speed of a bullet train. Being misled into a wrong route by their guide, Stephen Meek, the group of settlers is in need of nothing but a road and the heaven above to lead them to a source of water. All they wanted initially was the right way to go home to their respective safe-havens.
But as and when days progressed into weeks, their needs began to shrink, boiling down to the basic need for water. The silence of the barren land is deafening. But even then, the unnecessary banter with Stephen Meek seems unnecessary. It is striking how love, community, and hypocrisies all boil down to basic amenities under the threat of perishing. The wanderers did not look for anything else but a way that could send them back to their life force.
Not only is Meek’s Cutoff (2010) an evergreen masterpiece because of Reichardt’s universal theme of immigration, travel, and the constant quest to belong somewhere, but it is a strikingly refreshing take on ‘Western’ as a quintessential genre in American Cinema. With no space for femininity or the feminine that the rugged ‘Western’ world had once been known for, Meek’s Cutoff (2010) is a renewal of the genre by carving a new concept in the older mold. With this film, Reichardt rings a bell reminding a ‘modern’ audience that the days of genre-specific American Cinema are over. She is here to shatter convention and carve out a new legacy in the very mold of ‘Western.’
Reichardt initially begins by portraying a world in which men dominate. However, there does seem to be considerable premonition of a certain feminine touch in the narrative. The crucial decisions have no hand or contribution of a woman whatsoever. But the progression of this world by degrees into one that is bound by the composure of a woman and her subsequent decisions for the crew is what makes Reichardt and the film a genre-defying treat.
It is not only the women but femininity at large that takes over with the decision of Mrs. Tetherow to not kill the native ‘Indian’ and instead follow him with the hope that he could lead them to something. The switch in the power dynamics strikes as the feminine shades of an otherwise masculine group of men are also invoked. This ‘Western’ world is bereft of the ‘manly’ violence. Instead, it is contemplative, calm, and drawn to slumber.
The initial few minutes of the film, where we get to witness wide-angle shots from a distance, almost feel like a Point-of-View shot of a woman from behind her lock of hair and the frame of her hat. This is further confirmed when we get a closer look at the hats of the women in the film. It makes us feel one with them; we feel like a woman because we see from the eyes of a woman.
Once this becomes clear, the entire film gains a new feather to its cap as it seems like ‘Western’ from a woman’s perspective. It could further, perhaps, be looked at as a fruition of the heavy mounds of images of a ‘Western’ world that a woman’s subconscious might gather in its hefty layers, the most poignant reflection of it being Mrs. Tetherow (played by Michelle Williams) holding up a shooting gun straight with her firm grip. In the film, she points it towards Stephen Meek.
Where do you think she points it to in the poster? Us, undeniably.
3. First Cow (2019)
Utterly rustic in flavor, First Cow (2019) makes us sit quietly with an incessant bewilderment about how Reichardt would go about justifying the name of the film. The first sequence of a ship passing by and the subsequent ones showcasing a dog and a woman digging the soil and excavating a buried skeleton visually invokes Pascal Aubier’s Le Dormeur (1974) in its bid to celebrate slow cinema and its habit of making the audience wait.
The 2 hours and minute-long film feels like an eternity because of how well time has been artistically stretched, elongated, and made into a complex mesh of slow-paced circumstances happening one after another. The reverence for nature and placing it at the center of all actions makes sailing through the film a relaxing cakewalk.
Reichardt has a way of foregrounding a certain emotion or a relationship at the center and using it, in turn, to point towards a deeper meaning. In the case of First Cow (2019), we happen to stumble upon ‘friendship’ as the guiding light for the narrative as we witness Cookie and King Lee develop a bond of compassion after the former saves the latter from a group of Russians who had been after his life.
But ‘friendship’ isn’t the only direction we will turn to while delving deep into the narrative. Instead, her version of storytelling is quite multifaceted. In the behaviors of each of the rustic troupe of travelers, we notice the animalistic instincts that lead humans to not even value their own lives.
In the midst of such commotion, there too seem to be people who object to Cookie being subjugated to misbehavior on several occasions. But what’s the use? They end up leaving him and setting forth. What comes through as a message, though, is how we are all alone at the end of the day. Yes, two lonely people do meet and befriend each other, but none can deny that they, in fact, are lonely individuals even while they are with each other. This observation might come as a surprise or a shock to many who tend to look at the film as a means to celebrate friendship.
I beg to differ because of the minute moments when each of them has been talking about their respective lives while the other seemed lost in their own thoughts. Ultimately both of them wanted a means to move out of their existing situations. Their goals matched, and hence they happened to trail along. Reichardt has left enough clues for us to pick up the importance of ‘chance’ and ‘coincidence’ in the fruition of the friendship. Their friendship happened by chance. They stayed together by chance, and towards the end, when each of them figured out a separate way to save their lives, they met again by chance. Friendship, ultimately, is a communion between two lonely people.
Being alone comes through even as we see that the cow was the first of its kind who could make it across the sea alive, hence the name ‘First Cow.’ To encircle an entire story around this animal does prove to be an excellent trope, further facilitating Reichardt to consolidate the theme. The ruffle of the leaves and the moist eeriness of the woods have been a fulfilling ornamentation to her laid-back narrative style. There is thrill and tension, but even then, we are reassured and relaxed. As Cookie and King Lu rest, we also seem well-rested, evoking the same sensorial impact that Reichardt, by now, has proven to be a master of.
What would Cookie and King Lu encounter after they open their eyes after their rest? The Chief’s Henchmen or their loneliness? Will their friendship last?
2. Showing Up (2022)
Here’s “showing up” a refined Reichardt at her creative best. Colors, Art, Craft, and Thought…the film has it all. All over the years, we wonder what has changed in Reichardt’s style or way of communicating with us. Well, nothing and everything at the same time. ‘Nothing,’ I say, because you still find that mournful flute playing in your ears while you watch the most delightful Michelle Williams still talking in silence. There is still life peeking through greenery, life happening in the midst of distress. Reichardt’s contemplative streak is still visible in the air.
On the other hand, I say ‘Everything’ because the film feels so refined in its narrative progression, color scheme, shots, and especially the artsy mise-en-scenes and close-ups. While Reichardt has maintained her earlier pace, what feels new is how she makes it engaging. A whole sequence of Lizzy (Michelle Williams) trying to stick her hands into a sculpted piece, or even the gradual yet frequent panning to show the audience all the pieces that Lizzy had sculpted. The film feels no less like an art gallery or a museum.
What struck me was the initial credit score that bespoke Reichardt’s creative excellence. Not a single corner of the film feels unattended to or lacking in affection. The film feels like a sculpted work of art. With indentations, rough patches, and some smooth, lustrous surfaces, Showing Up (2022) seems to imbibe in itself all the meandering routes that a sculptor takes while crafting their piece of art.
Their art bears testament to all those meanders and the tough roads taken. The sculptor, in our case, is none but Reichardt herself. The opening sequence and the gradual shift of the camera to covering up the pro-filmic space with random sketches feel like the brainstorming sessions and the rudimentary framework for only Lizzy but also Kelly Reichardt herself. The persistent music and these pictures create a mystic effect, almost as if we are looking at an innocent sketchbook of a painter, an art enthusiast, or even a fashion student.
The initial credit score also has the names of actors appearing at specific intervals at specific points when the camera shifts to capture a particular piece of sculpture. This does make me think. It is as if these actors and the characters they portray have a direct reflection of them in the sculptures. In fact, right at the moment when I was about to discard this thought rebuking myself for my habit of re-reading between shots a bit too much, Lizzy’s Show Day arrives, and we see how Jo bends down just like the figurine she looks at and both she and her accomplice amusingly find a similarity with her. Reichardt simply validates my habit of re-reading every time.
Reichardt’s simplicity brings charm, and her meditative mood brings peace even in the midst of chaos. There seems to be an invisible string connecting harmony and chaos, as is evident in Lizzy’s broken family and how they still manage to remain on amicable terms despite insecurities. We do notice them quarreling with each other in the end, but that, in fact, appears funny after a certain moment, funny enough to portray them as a happy family.
Harmony in Chaos becomes even more evident, with Lizzy’s cat hurting the pigeon and, subsequently, Lizzy developing a bond with that same pigeon after having to resentfully take care of it on a busy work day. Even as Jo visits Lizzy’s Show despite a feat of rage the previous day, their mutual insecurities towards each other again do justice to the central theme of finding creeks of harmony even in feats of chaos. The climax of it, however, occurs when the two children free the pigeon off her bandage, and it flies all across Lizzy’s art gallery, and Sean, Lizzy’s brother, sets it free into the sky.
“In the dark times will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing,
About the dark times…”
In a way, Reichardt’s microcosm finds a space in Brecht’s macrocosmic sphere.
1. Old Joy (2006)
Remember those old landline conversations with your best friend from school? Those long hours of standing outside an ice cream stall just to buy an ice cream with the money you saved up? And then, remember the last conversation you had with that friend? Your friend has become a mere contact on your phone.
But what if you meet that friend? Things are not the same, I know. But don’t you suffer a dilemma as to where your heart truly is? Yes. Old Joy (2006) made me rethink and remember all those faces that I lost in the crowd of growing up. Not that I regret it, but I surely miss it. So does Kurt. He misses his old friend, Mark, who is now filled with commitments. He is about to become a father. The melancholia-infused air of the film has a way of soothing us with its mournful tune.
Reichardt is all in with the bounties of scenic beauty that she mixes with a tinge of sorrow smelling of old memories. Mark, as she portrays, is quiet and sort of meek compared to Kurt. While Mark has willingly accepted his fate of a new life where he has certain familial responsibilities, Kurt becomes his anchor to his carefree past. On feeling a pull from this anchorage, Mark gives in. He agrees to go for a weekend camping with Kurt.
Somewhere we all have that one friend who refuses to grow up. This comes to be reflected in Kurt’s outlandish personality and his blithe-filled attitude of not knowing the exact way to the hot spring at Bagby. Reichardt’s unique style is how she makes all her characters lose their way and find themselves in this process. Her primary characters are always in the middle of a dilemma, a crisis between convention and non-conformity. But they aren’t really looking for a solution.
In the case of Mark, it becomes very clear in his conversations that he isn’t complaining about his ‘sorted’ married life because it was he who had made this choice for himself. But, he does find himself lured by the opportunity to take a break from the present and drive to the past. His wife’s phone calls and Reichardt’s favorite character, Lucy, the pet dog tagging along in this journey, become the two great reminders of his present, where ultimately, he has no way but to return.
The dip at the hot spring bears a special significance to me, thereby connecting it to a deeper and more interesting observation. The hot spring, its waters, the lush greenery around, and the feeling of lying on the lap of nature almost kindle and spiritually evoke a synesthetic experience. “Spiritual” is the word that leads me to observe how Mark seemed utterly pestered by the collective cacophony of news broadcast hosts debating amongst themselves about issues like Civil Rights.’
Movement in the car radio while he sets out on this weekend getaway, and then suddenly, everything seems to shut up into comfortable silence on his drive back. The cacophony, quite consciously, seems to set in again after Mark drops Kurt to his homestay and sets out for home. The bath at the hot spring almost seems like a dip in the holy waters embalming and relaxing the wounds of the heart. These are the ‘holy’ waters of a carefree past, symbolizing the fact that there is always room to stop and look back when life gets tiring. The news blurs in only when Mark’s emotional baggage seems lighter, and he is done with catching his breath to pick up the pace to move ahead in life.
Therefore, Old Joy (2006) becomes a lamentable recollection of all our old joys.
The “Otherworldly Peaceful” Worlds of Kelly Reichardt have a way of defining and redefining “Peace” both as a word and a concept. The meanings undergo waves of change with the subsequent change in contexts while her characters become instrumental in shattering boxes, constantly philosophizing definitions of ‘Life.’ Yes, we stand confused with piles of probable definitions and yet are refreshed by the myriad perspectives. Sailing through the waves of Reichardt’s ocean of secrets is worth it, indeed. You leave with a head full of questions, but those questions make you keep coming back for more. Tasting Chaos and Peace on the same plate isn’t, after all, so bad. What do you say?