Nostalgia (2018)


Cast includes: Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Catherine Keener (Get Out), John Ortiz (American Gangster), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)
Writer/Director: Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies)
Genre: Drama (114 minutes)



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“Beautiful ring,” he says. “Thanks,” says the waitress. “Seems valuable.” “I don’t know about that, but it is to me… it was my grandmothers.” Indeed. The man from Assembly Mutual knows much about the value of mementos, whether they have monetary value or not. His appointment today is to evaluate the contents of Bethany’s dad’s home, even though he’s still with us for now. “She should have been here. She’ll come after I’m gone, I suppose.” "If there’s anything of real value, you’ll need to get an appraisal," the insurance man says. “It’s all trash,” Dad says. “I raised my family here. And you know what… it’s home, and I like it.” The insurance man takes lots of pictures. He even asks to take a picture of Dad. “Be my guest,” Dad says. Afterward the insurance man delivers a report to Bethany and her husband… “It’s mathematically consistent with a pensioner in his 80s,” he explains... knowing the monetary value is only a small part of the picture. He feels Bethany should go through things herself… not that there’s anything of monetary value… but maybe there are photos or diaries. Her husband sees little point in bothering with stuff like that.

“This is my home,” says his next client. They’re standing in the middle of a burned-out home in a lovely suburb. “How do you decide what to take when you only have one minute?” she asks rhetorically. For some reason known only to her late husband, Ned, she took the baseball. She supposes there were many other things of greater value that she should have taken, but she saw it and remembered how much Ned valued it. Anyway, everything is charred remains now, and there’s no way to revisit that single minute she had before the firefighters made her leave. The neighbors offer tea and some thoughts about the job of being an insurance man. “What does it do to a person to take all this in?” “It never hurts me personally, and it never gets old… every story has things I’ve never heard before.” One thing everyone can agree on… “Nobody wants to be talking to me.” Even though his job is all about monetary value, the insurance man can’t help noticing what we leave behind… “It’s about the value of what we hold in our hands and what we hold in our hearts.”

Nostalgia is an in-depth exploration of the value of objects and memories. Most of us can think of objects we’ve gotten from others that hold sentimental value or objects we plan to leave to others we hope will have value. Yet there’s much randomness in how sentimental value works. Despite our innate desire for order, life’s events can be all too random… as are the mementos we leave behind… or don’t leave behind. At first this film feels quite random as one character leads us to another character and another narrative. But along the way, a plotline begins to develop. That said; every character and every story serves the exploration of the linkage between objects and memories. The cast is extraordinary, and we see well-known actors unusually naturalistic roles. Over the course of the film, we go from watching events play out to feeling them unfold. It’s hard to watch Nostalgia without thinking about which of our own possessions might someday have value to someone. If you prefer films with involved plots, you may find this film too slow. But if you’re ready to go on a deep dive of a single concept, Nostalgia does just that. It seems like a simple concept, but by the end, we realize there are a great many valid ways to consider nostalgia and the value of objects.

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

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Popcorn Profile

Rated: R
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Depressing
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism
Nutshell: Objects and memories
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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