While We’re Young (GFF 2015)

While We're YoungChildless couple Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are feeling out of touch. Their friends — almost all of them parents — are changed people, while the generation below always seem one step ahead. They realise that they haven’t embraced technology but inherited it, only to find that the youth which they desperately yearn to emulate have eschewed smartphones and social media in favour of a more authentic, experiential and experimental existence: namely board games, record collections and homemade ice cream. When they meet Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) after one of Josh’s lectures, they are immediately seduced by the younger pair’s vigour and vitality, together agreeing to help Jamie with his documentary film while living vicariously — and later viscerally — through their adventures.

While We’re Young is, unsurprisingly, preoccupied with age. Josh’s attempts to edit his decades-in-the-making documentary are scuppered by his subject’s his ever-changing appearance; Cornelia’s body clock is standing in the way of her having children; while their friends are being slowly infantilised by their own offspring. Jamie and Darby, meanwhile, seem almost ignorant of it, living an strangely timeless existence that is almost too hipsterish for words. (Or, as Watts’ character puts it, “It’s like their apartment is full of everything we once threw out, but it looks so good the way they have it”.) Together they go on organised walks through the subway, attend urban dance classes and experiment with hallucinogens, much to the bemusement of their stay-at-home peers.

Ben Stiller has rarely been more likeable, or sympathetic, as Josh. His professional concerns might be rather more esoteric but it’s easy to relate to his personal conflict, particularly his ongoing attempts to reconcile his mental and physical ages. On the one hand he’s still a lost boy trying to make sense of the world and earn the respect of his father-in-law, while on the other he’s an old man in a hat who has just been diagnosed with arthritis in his knee. He has terrific chemistry with Driver, who impresses without really surprising as another fast-talking, bohemian polymath, but it’s his relationship with Watts that really delights. She plays a producer, though not a partner on her husband’s own film project, who can’t decide whether she wants children or not. As a role it’s slightly underwritten, but Watts — quickly redeeming herself after a string of critical disasters — works wonders with it.

The true revelation, however, is director Noah Baumbach, a Wes Anderson alumnus who — following a co-writer credit on the superb Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted — seems to have finally found mainstream success. The starrier cast goes some way towards solving The Gerwig Problem (with Seyfried allegedly replacing the divisive Frances Ha actress), instead drawing more flattering comparisons with last year’s Say When, and despite an early flirtation with pretension in the form of a lengthy quotation from Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” (nothing to do with The LEGO Movie, apparently) it constitutes his most accessible and affecting work to date. Rather than pass judgement on either generation Baumbach instead lets his characters speak for themselves, and through the prism of authenticity in documentary filmmaking seems to conclude that there is no right answer.

While We’re Young is the perfect opening film, kick-starting Glasgow Film Festival 2015 with just the right combination of credibility and commercial viability. Funny, touching and intelligent, it showcases the talents of everyone involved.

For my full coverage of GFF 15, visit HeyUGuys.4-Stars


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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