On a weekend camping trip, two old friends discover how much their lives have diverged. Mark (Daniel London) has become a hard-working citizen, married and about to be a father, while Kurt (Will Oldham) is an old hippie still shunning responsibility. Hiking through the woods provides them with an activity and a mutual goal, but at night by the campfire their conversation is awkward and they can't seem to find common ground.
The next day they bathe and relax in the mountain hot springs, but the awkwardness doesn't leave them. Very little happens, but by the end we realize they have drifted too far apart and something essential has been irretrievably lost.
Beautifully shot in the Oregon mountains, with a wistful soundtrack by Yo La Tengo, 'Old Joy' captures a mood of quiet melancholy and lets it speak for itself. Only once is it put into words, when Kurt quotes an old Chinese proverb saying:
Sorrow is nothing but worn-out joy.