Bruce comes home after his morning run to discover that his wife of 40 years had passed away. Grief quietly works its way through Bruce and his family as they try and come to terms with their loss.
Personally, I find it tough to decide which is more painful: dying or experiencing the death of a loved one. That might seem stupid since, obviously, the process of dying can be painful — or in extreme cases, unimaginably painful. However, there is no pain after death where as dealing with the loss of a loved one has no end, and ultimately, no solution.
Last year, I covered the film "Mourning Has Broken" whose theme dealt with the idea of what a person does to cope with that loss. Equally funny and tragic in it's black-comedy tone. The festival favorite, "Forty Years From Yesterday", looks to tackle the subject as well but without the levity of comedy. Just the quiet devastation that comes with the death of someone you loved.
After coming home from his usual morning run, Bruce finds his wife of 40 years collapsed on the floor. The unfortunate news of her passing sends waves of grief through Bruce, his children and grandchildren, and those who knew him. Now Bruce has to find a way to cope with his loss as his inevitable future approaches -- without his wife.
It may seem like typical plot to be produced by a low-budget independent production — as I mentioned, "Mourning Has Broken" had a similar plot. What makes "Forty Years From Yesterday" work well and invokes the atmosphere and the emotion of the story, is how they captured the story.
"Forty Years From Yesterday" is a minimalist piece; dialogue is almost non-existent and the movie is composed of only a handful of shots/scenes. Again, it might sound "typical" of indie drama but those two elements -- minimal dialogue and minimal scenes -- capture what it's like when you are trying to deal with the death of someone you loved. The scenes are long, drawn out, and feature little technical aspect to them. The cinematography is usually either stationary or hand-held, which is all that's needed. The hand-held aspects allow the movie to, at times, feel personal, while the long takes of holding on Bruce or other characters creates the tension of uneasiness.
It reflects that same feeling a person has in that situation because what do you do when someone you love, someone you expect to always be there, is now gone? How do you deal with that? What do you say? How are you suppose to react? Feel? It's an overwhelming sensation that ultimately causes everything around you to fall silent while you try to come to terms with reality. "Forty Years From Yesterday" has no score, and with no dialogue, the long takes of Bruce sitting alone are uncomfortable and heartbreaking. Even at the end, when the movie switches from a theme of death, to a theme of life and love, it still remains tragic.
While I had an idea of what kind direction the movie was going to take, "Forty Years From Yesterday" succeeds at capturing the reality of its story exceptionally well. It was an intelligent decision to go in a minimalist direction with long takes, almost no dialogue, and a complete lack of score. As those elements helped in capturing the atmosphere that the movie needed to. The only detriment to the movie would be that it is kind of typical in that you know what you're going to get, but, nevertheless, what you get is a well done movie about life, death, love, and loss.