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Love stories are common in Hollywood, with tales of first loves even more ubiquitous.
The new film Our Souls at Night, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, is a romance between two characters who have both lost their first loves and are getting a second chance later in life. “It was a movie about two old people that have an extraordinary relationship, and that doesn’t come along that often,” Fonda told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s New York premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday night.
In the adaptation of the Kent Haruf novel of the same name, Redford and Fonda play Louis and Addie, two neighbors who have both lost their spouses. While they’ve been acquaintances for years, the two don’t get to really know each other until Addie comes knocking on Louis’ door with an unusual proposal. She asks if he is interested in sleeping with her. The request is not sexual but an attempt for Addie to feel less lonely at night. Louis accepts the offer, and they develop a strong bond.
Though the characters may be older, they are not done growing as individuals. “I always saw this movie as a coming-of-age story,” director Ritesh Batra said. “Coming-of-age stories are not just for younger people.” The director believes both characters grow in the film and that every generation can experience a coming-of-age story. “I’ve been coming of age every decade in my life in a small way,” he added.
Exploring a couple finding love later in life was an exciting prospect for co-writer Scott Neustadter. “It feels like there’s been a lot of stories about first loves, and I think we were excited about the opportunity to tell a story about a different kind of love,” Neustadter said of the development process with writing partner Michael H. Weber. “We all have family, and we want to make sure that every generation knows that if you’re still alive, you still have love that you can find in your life.”
Weber added, “We love a great relationship story, and that’s really, at its heart, what this is.”
Fonda revealed that the film gave her a “perfect” opportunity to once again work with Redford, with whom she made three movies prior to that. The pair played couples in The Chase, Barefoot in the Park and The Electric Horseman. The actress described her latest collaboration with Redford, their first in 38 years, as “a wonderful experience.”
Batra said that the close relationship between the co-stars made for a unique filming experience.
“In much of this movie, these characters are getting to know each other, and Robert and Jane know each other so well,” he said. “It was really interesting and really hard for them as actors, but they did it so masterfully, pretending like they don’t know each other. They make it look easy, but it’s not.”
Our Souls at Night, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, will be released in select theaters and on Netflix on Friday, Sept. 29.
“Netflix does such a wonderful job of bringing people to see content,” Batra said of the streaming service, which has been attached to the project from the beginning of development. While the director is still nostalgic for the days of going to movie theaters to watch new releases, he thinks Netflix is the perfect place for his film. The director said that “the movie is going to live on at Netflix.”
While the story follows characters of an older generation, the cast and crew argue that the film will appeal to all audiences. “I think it’s a film that has no particular limits,” said Fonda.
Batra added that the coming-of-age angle gives the film a relatable aspect that all people can enjoy. “I do think it’s for everybody,” he said.
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