Film Review: While We’re Young

by Mark Woodhouse

Rated M. Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried. Directed by Noah Baumbach.

How good would it be to feel young again?

While We’re Young is a film about generational divides and bridges. We follow fortysomething couple Josh and Cornelia (Stiller and Watts), documentary filmmakers, who meet twentysomething hipsters Jamie and Darby (Driver and Seyfried). Josh and Cornelia are energised and inspired by this young couple and their attitude to life, and are forced to decide if they want to stay young, or head off into ‘adulthood’.

We see the generational divide in a bunch of often-humourous ways, and it’s probably least obvious but best shown in the different approaches to filmmaking. This is also what becomes the source of tension in the film, as their relationships are tested, their pride is hurt, and their ethics laid bare for all to see.

Josh and Cornelia love Jamie and Darby. They love their kindess and generosity, their tech-free lifestyle, the way they seem to be in touch with everything going on around them. They’re attracted to the freedom of youth, a freedom they realise has slipped from them – they could go to Paris tomorrow if they wanted. Well, maybe in a month. But a month is still within the realm of spontaneity.

The film has a ‘cool’ feel to it. I felt a bit like Josh, swept up into the unwittingly cool world of Jamie and Darby. It’s nothing spectacular, but it serves the story it’s telling.

Frustratingly, everything is open for discussion, but nothing much is resolved. Writer/director Baumbach has said I put (ideas) out there and have the characters fight it out. I don’t have the answers…” I like the idea, but I found the way While We’re Young did it to be frustrating and a bit, well, empty. It just didn’t engage me like I think it was supposed to, and it left me confused more than stimulated.

I found it a bit hard to relate to the characters, since I’m not a fortysomething filmmaker, nor an ultra-alternative hipster (I mean, sure, I wear skinny jeans, but I’m not writing this on a typewriter like Jamie does! I am, of course, using my Mac). And I don’t often feel this gap between generations as intensely as the characters do.

But in my church, there does sometimes feels like a large generation gap! The older generation in our morning service loves the organ, while the younger generation in our evening service loves guitars. Now, as much as I love the organ, I’m much more of a guitar kind of guy! But one of the things this church has taught me is that my generation isn’t always the generation in the right (shocking, I know). One generation isn’t more right than the other, because we all have the same gospel.

And this gospel means that there is no generation gap in God’s spiritual family! “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26). We’re ALL of the same generation, the one that has Jesus as a brother (Hebrews 2:11) and God as Father (Romans 8:15).

So I think that the biblical picture of intergenerational interactions is far more positive and optimistic than While We’re Young. We have things to teach each other, and ways to love and serve each other, because we all relate to each other as members of the same spiritual generation.

Because generational gaps do exist on this earth and in our experience, and while While We’re Young emphasises the differences, the gospel builds bridges over the generation gap and uses them to build the body of Christ. Check out what Titus has to say about it, or Paul’s instructions to parents raising their kids in Colossians and Ephesians. Aren’t generation gaps such a blessing from God!

While We’re Young is a decent film exploring generational differences that will be enjoyed more if you are more like the particular characters in the film. A little thought-provoking, a little humourous, a little meandering. Three stars.

While We’re Young is screening now in cinemas everywhere.

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