4 stars
American indie writer/director Noah Baumbach is one of those filmmakers who is developing a fascinating and distinctive oeuvre.
For many it is now the case that they want to go and see his next film just because he directed it. In the back catalogue he has such mini-masterpieces as The Squid and the Whale (the most painfully truthful film about divorce) and the cult festival hit Frances Ha (starring his partner Great Gerwig). He has also worked with Ben Stiller before in the anti-rom com Greenberg.

Stiller is at the heart of this playful and occasionally savage look at New York trendiness. He plays Josh, a middle aged Filmmaker who has been stuck on his pet project for years but no one wants to tell him. His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts proving once again how versatile she has now become) is a little bit in his shadow but doesn’t know how to move him (or herself) along. Crucially they have not faced up to having kids, and when their friends all start breeding the couple is stranded between hanging on to their partying young adulthood and that defining next step. Into this delicate situation comes Jamie a promising young student of Josh’s (a brilliant almost-film-stealing perf from Adam Driver (Tracks) who look like a cross between Keanu Reeves and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ).

Jamie is that crucial ten years younger and he and his soppy supportive girlfriend Darby (Amanda Seyfried - Mamma Mia!) are the ‘it couple’ of their scene in a way which is irresistible to Josh. Jamie is likeable to a point of being nauseating but Josh is completely taken with him. So much so, that they start mirroring each others’ behaviour whilst Jamie leads the older couple into uncomfortably-trying out all the pursuits of his generation. There’s an unforgettable scene where both couples go and partake in the new modish trip experience Ayahuasca (a Peruvian DMT-like drug with huge emetic side effects.)

Baumbach is closer to the age of Josh and Cornelia and he does not spare his cohort. He nails the angst inside the next generation gap. It is always a reckoning for any generation that is used to being the enfants terribles to find themselves patronised or bamboozled in mid life by those even younger. This being the age that it is there is also a central role given to technological innovation and how it might be driving peoples’ habits but also shaping their very way of being sociable.

Baumbach is aware of the narcissistic and individualistic dimension to so-called social media; but his main concern is how people strive to find meaning and to belong. Is he taking deliberately desperate and shallow characters to show how doomed this all is in a world where everyone is using everyone else? Well not quite, the film is much more subtle than that. And more enjoyable too.

The baffled shake of the head that the film’s stance implies is tempered with an artists’ empathy for us being human, all too human.


Previewed at Roadshow Theatre, Sydney, on 30 March 2015


Ben Stiller
Naomi Watts
Adam Driver
Amanda Seyfried

Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach



97 minutes

April 16, 2015
While We're Young (2014) on IMDb