“While We’re Young” balances layered and nuanced plot

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While We’re Young is the seventh film written by Brooklyn-born director Noah Baumbach—starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.

The film tells the story of forty-something-year-old, childless couple Josh and Cornelia—played by Stiller and Watts—in New York, who have the course of their lives changed forever by artsy hipster mid-twenties’ couple Jamie and Darby—Driver and Seyfried. 

Being a big fan of Noah Baumbach’s work,—especially his 2019 Academy Award nominated film Marriage Story,—I had high hopes when I started watching this film after having it recommended to me on Netflix. 

Just over an hour and a half later, I sat back in my chair, realizing that it was one of the most layered yet nuanced films I had seen in a long time. 

At a first glance, While We’re Young looks like a simple film—a nearly middle-aged couple ‘chasing after their youth’ by pursuing a friendship with young, idealistic twenty-somethings. 

However, the film provides much more than that.

As the son-in-law of an accomplished documentarian, Josh is in a difficult position. As a documentarian himself, he cannot seem to grasp the same audience response that his father-in-law can. 

In fact, he’s been working on the same film for eight years, unable to make any decisive decisions on how he should proceed with it. 

As a filmmaker who has released a documentary himself, Baumbach’s depiction of ‘artist’s block’ is beautifully played out through Josh’s struggle to release what he feels is a ‘true’ documentary film—a message that is beautifully and devastatingly highlighted in the latter half of the film). 

There are many laughs to be had throughout the film. Stiller and Watts have excellent chemistry, their challenge to fit in with those their age while being seduced into the footloose and fancy free lifestyle of Jamie and Darby providing a comical yet accurate portrayal of a fear experienced by many; growing older, being without kids and seeing the friends who are your age surpassing you by having children. 

Throughout the film, the relationship between Josh and Cornelia is challenged as the two try to determine what they wish to do with the rest of their lives, being behind their friends due to their laser-focus on their careers during the early years of their marriage. 

To them, Jamie and Darby are a breath of fresh air, their lifestyle mimicking their own despite the large age difference. 

The legacy between all four of the main cast members is wonderful; never once does the relationship between the two couples feel forced, or disingenuous. 

Of special note is the link between Josh and Jamie’s friendship—we see Josh constantly looking for approval from Jamie, even dressing like him in a humorous scene where the two traipse around New York City streets. 

With sincere moments of reflection, clutch-your-sides funny line delivery, jaw-dropping on location shots of New York and a profound message While We’re Young is a must-see for anyone who is a Baumbach fan or has yet to be introduced to his work. As Josh says, “I’ve learned along the way you can discover more by allowing yourself to be surprised by what you encounter.” The same applies to this film. Take the time to watch it and you will be surprised by all Baumbach and the stellar cast of While We’re Young has to offer.

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