How do we decide what to take from a burning building? How do we value a lifetime of accumulated objects, each tied to a memory, a legacy, or an emotion? These questions, heavy and hard to answer, are among the ones triggered by Mark Pellington’s Nostalgia. Last night Greenwich International Film Festival had the privilege of screening this brilliant film. Along every stop in this anthology, Pellington presents a character and follows them as they journey through life, cope with loss, and struggle with impermanence. With an a-list cast, including Catherine Keener, Ellen Burstyn, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, and Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm, Nostalgia does not disappoint.

Pellington first introduces us to Dern’s character—Ronnie—a widower who is unable to dispose of the many items he has accumulated throughout the years. His granddaughter, played by Amber Tamblyn, hires an appraiser to determine if any of “this stuff” has value.  Something his granddaughter does not understand is that value isn’t necessarily determined by a dollar sign.

Ellen Burnstyn plays Helen, a widow who loses nearly everything when her house of many years burns down. She is left to decide what to do with the few possessions she was able to save, including a signed baseball inherited by her late husband. It wasn’t her attachment to the baseball that made her grab it in a moment of panic; it was her attachment to him.

Returning to his childhood home to sort through his parents’ belongings before selling it, Will, played by Jon Hamm, along with his sister, are struck by tragedy, making their task of valuing objects that are invaluable to them, even more difficult.

Overall, Nostalgia is a profoundly personal film about the relationship people create with their belongings.  Pellington helps us understand that it is less about our actual belongings, and more about the people who give us those belongings.

Nostalgia, in select theatres now!

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Katelyn Coughlin

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