This summer, we’ve seen four good “movies for grownups” that provide intriguing lessons on life for Baby Boomers.
Love and Mercy is, on the surface, a biopic about Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the Beach Boys. I was drawn to it, initially, by a kind of nostalgia—not unlike the attraction of Jersey Boys —but the reality was very different. The music is there, of course, but the story is about Brian Wilson’s tormented genius and how, after many years of suffering, he found someone who freed him from an abusive psychiatrist. The lesson: it is never too late to find love and to start life afresh.
A Walk in the Woods gives us Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as an aging writer and his pal from younger days who set out on a final big adventure—walking the Appalachian Trail. I had read Bill Bryson’s great book and knew that no movie would be able to capture its depth, but nevertheless A Walk in the Woods turned out to be a very entertaining comic tale of two people facing their age and finding not only new adventures but a new appreciation of their lives and loves.
I’ll See You in My Dreams stars Blythe Danner and Sam Elliot in what I thought was the most satisfying movie of the year so far. Billed by one writer as a “coming of old age” movie, it gave us a sympathetic insight into one woman’s journey to confront the challenge of maintaining her personal sense of herself and building new relationships in her older years. It is a film about both renewal and continuity. We watched this movie over and over.
Finally, there is The Age of Adeline, a fantasy about a woman who, due to a freak accident, stops aging in her late twenties and must change her identity with each decade in order to protect her secret. In many ways, it is an allegory of adulthood, as we all live many different lives and, at some point, many of us become the children of our own children. It is a very nice allegory that, ironically, was much more fun to watch the second time around.
It is interesting how, as the Boomer generation begins to reach retirement age and has time for matinees and on-demand binge viewing, we are beginning to see films that address our issues—not the traditional issues of aging, perhaps, but instead a focus on the adventure of finding new ways to express our lives as we shift gears into what may be for many of our generation an extended “third act.” Perhaps the promotional tag for I’ll See You in My Dreams says it best: “Life goes on. Go with it.”