I’ll See You in My Dreams

You might go in expecting a heart-on-sleeve handout to middle-class women of retirement age, by whom and for whom movies aren’t often enough made. But I’ll See You in My Dreams isn’t charity, and director Brett Haley, co-writing with Marc Basch, doesn’t seem so interested in demographic premeditation. Take the disarmingly straightforward early scenes: Any feeling human being who’s ever taken a pet to the vet for the last time should mist up pretty quickly here, as much for the familiar heartache as for the authentic and non-condescending presentation. This becomes the framework for our protagonist, a retiree and widow played with truth and grace by Blythe Danner, wistfully reclusive even in the company of three bridge buddies (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place) and one fledged daughter (Malin Akerman). It’s light touches all around, with everybody seeming to have gotten the emotional availability memo. Even the magnetism of Sam Elliott’s self-assurance is kept at just enough distance to steady the flow of attraction. He’s the love interest, ideal and available — until, as per life’s vicissitudes, he isn’t. The other guy in our leading lady’s orbit is Martin Starr, as humanizing as ever, in the role of the young confidant who cleans her pool. Tastefulness isn’t to every taste, of course, and it’s not unfair to say that visually and editorially this film’s discretion sometimes lapses into lack of style. That’s the risk Haley runs, and there is some quiet bravery in taking it. Neither a feel-good bromide nor a cynical comeback thereto, I’ll See You in My Dreams seems patiently to be working out an equation which allows getting older on one side of the equal sign and keeping calm on the other.