When We’re Young: Aren’t We All Still and Forever Young?

Naomi Watts in When We're Young
Naomi Watts in When We’re Young

The title of this movie starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts is a riddle. When We’re Young, as in, they still are young. But the whole point of this funny and poignant movie is that nobody stays young, and no amount of young hip friends will ever make you young again.

We watch a childless Brooklyn couple Josh and Cornelia, navigating the world with their friends who are parents, and notice that they continually wrestle with whether they’ve made the right decision to remain childless. They throw it back and forth, ‘we’re happy right? I mean, we could right now get on a plane for Rome, right?’  But Rome was many years ago, and Ben’s knee is hurting from arthritis. Not like arthritis, but simply, as his doc says, arthritis itself.  Face it, he’s getting old. Cornelia has been through fertility treatments and has given up on having a child.

But then they meet Jamie and Darby, who are 20-somethings who live joyful lives and use typewriters, watch movies on VCRs and refuse to Google things they don’t understand. They have a quaint throwback vibe, they don’t need the iphone/ipad/laptops that seem to tie Josh and Cornelia down to their boring middle age lives. No, these young people make things, and wear hipster hats, and go to shaman ceremonies where people do drugs and learn their truths. They find them enchanting, and Josh begins to wear the same fedora and ride a bike like his new buddy Jamie.  Their attraction to both as a couple costs them their same-age friends.

Cornelia’s dad is a producer, a bigshot, and Jamie like Josh, is an aspiring filmmaker, or as they describe him, a ‘documentarian.’  Josh has been stuck for ten years making his magnum opus, a boring film about an intellectual played by Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary.  It’s dry, dry stuff, and clearly Jamie has some more appealing ideas that a producer might actually want to put money into.

Jamie manages to catch the attention and respect of Josh’s father in law, who he has never gotten along with, creating tension.  When Josh reveals that Jamie has not been honest about the subject of his movie, an Afghanistan war vet with a terrible secret, nobody really cares. It becomes almost a generation gap, it seems that a good story trumps being totally truthful, and it makes Josh crazy.

The movie handles so many of the issues of our time deftly, and realistically. It is indeed frustrating to see a young cat soar while you’re mired in muck, and in the end, well, maybe it IS a good idea to raise a family, however you end up doing it.  Go see this film, I highly recommend it, both Mary and I enjoyed it a lot.