Have you ever used the term “10 years ago” and then stopped and had a mild to mega panic attack when you realise that 10 years ago is in fact NOT 1995 like you imagine, but 2005? We’re getting older. We are the internet and mobile phone generation, and the current crop is just feeding off of our scraps. But here’s the thing - we’re not old. We are, however, too old to be young and too young to be old. So what are we? Filmmaker Noah Baumbach (‘The Squid and the Whale’) is asking this very question in ‘While We’re Young’.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are in their early forties, childless and living in Manhattan. As documentary filmmakers, they have a keen eye for life and people and they don’t like what they’re seeing in their friends and those around them, i.e. children. Having tried for kids and failed years earlier, Josh and Cornelia have accepted their fate but haven’t quiet figured out how to fill that void. They meet Jamie (Adam Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), 20-something-year-olds who keep a chicken in their apartment, ride bikes, prefer to take days to remember the name of something instead of automatically reaching for Google, and participate is Ayahuasca ceremonies. Their youth, vitality and shared aspirations in documentary filmmaking draw the two couples together and reinvigorate Josh and Cornelia, having a profound and unexpected impact on their life and relationship in unexpected and sometimes harsh ways.
Baumbach has a common theme in his films and it’s that adults, no matter their age, never stop learning and growing up. You are always somebody’s child and therefore you are always a child in one way or another. He likes to break down definitions and neat categories everyone seems to place people in and show that everyone is the exception to the rule. If you’re a fan of Baumbach, it’s not hard to find the personal angle here: he is no longer ‘The Squid and the Whale’, he is now ‘While We’re Young’ - a scary concept but no less true. The themes and ideas explored here are universal and done so with charm, wit and a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
A comedy we can all relate to, the plot may derail towards the end under the weight of its complexities, but the enduring power and message of the characters and their relationships are always on point. It’s a beautiful-looking film featuring great performances, with Watts once again stepping elegantly and fitting perfectly into those comedy shoes. At a neat 97 minutes it never drags and you’re left with a taste of curiosity, nostalgia and a wry smile planted smack-bang in the middle of your face.