It’s that time of year again. Love is in the air, and if you were looking for a not so conventional love story then Old Fashioned may just be the film you need. Old Fashioned tells the story of a romance between a solitary man, Clay (Rik Swartzwelder), a woman with a passion for life, Amber (Elizabeth Roberts); however, instead of dating like people do now-a-days, Clay and Amber attempt to court each other instead, which means no kissing or anything beyond that.
Clay won’t even allow himself to be alone with Amber at all unless they’re in public or in what Clay might define as an “acceptable” situation. In fact, on their first official date Clay takes Amber to the local church where they have a pre-marital counseling session. Old fashioned, indeed! It’s a bit of an extreme approach to dating, and many of the other characters in the film agree. Clay spends most of his time defending his beliefs to those who are closest to him.
There were some performances in Old Fashioned that felt a little rocky, but I have to say that Clay’s aunt Zella (Dorothy Silver) is now one of my favorite humans. She’s funny, sharp and anything but timid, which is nice to see in an elderly character in a film. Instead of being a “sweet old lady” or just an old person who swears repeatedly for comic effect, Zella is just a strong character. She lets Clay know exactly how she feels about his dating and other life habits without any filter. I really enjoyed every scene she was featured in. Go Aunt Zella! Rik Swartzwelder and Elizabeth Roberts have a very natural on-screen chemistry. The interactions between the two characters feels sincere.
What I enjoyed most about Old Fashioned is that it presents an alternative to how most people pursue relationships, but it also acknowledges that resisting every dating convention to an extreme can make it impossible to form a meaningful relationship. Like in the scene where Clay and Amber “get lost” (Amber’s idea for a date where they drive to a random destination) and Clay refuses to admit he wants Amber, and he resists her when she leans in for a kiss. Because Clay refuses Amber any sort of intimacy—even if it is something more conservative—she feels like Clay doesn’t really value their relationship at all. In a nutshell I think this film emphasizes the idea that most people move too quickly in relationships, but if one takes things too slowly in an attempt to have a perfect relationship it can be equally damaging. Overall, it’s refreshing to watch a film with this sort of outlook on relationships. Even if it is a view most people might not agree with.