Carol Peterson lives in a nice home in a pleasant California neighborhood. She's a retired widow who evidently has no money or health problems. But even at that, Carol's life isn't perfect. When she's forced to put her 14-year-old dog down, her loneliness becomes more acute. Carol knows there's something missing from a life in which the "to-do" board in her kitchen contains only two items: "Walk" and "dry cleaning."
I'll See You In My Dreams belongs to Blythe Danner, the actress who plays Carol.
Having been widowed for 20 years, Danner's Carol becomes a kind of case study: What happens when an older woman who's secure in most ways can't entirely conquer her loneliness?
The movie introduces a couple of men into Carol's life. The first is Lloyd (Martin Starr), her pool boy. Don't fret, director Brett Haley, working from a script he co-wrote with Marc Basch, isn't going to force Carol into an affair with a younger man whose life can't seem to take root. The two develop an emotional closeness with hints of romantic attraction. Nothing more.
After a reluctant and disastrous attempt at something called "speed dating" -- men and women meet in a contrived situation in which they're supposed to get to know one another within minutes -- an attractive man (Sam Elliott) approaches Carol and expresses a straightforward interest in her.
Elliott's Bill is a self-assured bachelor with a boat. He charms Carol, although he may be needier than he lets on. Bill usually carries an unlit cigar (an oral fixation, he muses), and he may be a little too eager to push Carol toward commitment.
For her part, Carol's happy for the company, and when she shares news of her involvement with her visiting daughter (Malin Ackerman), she's clearly anticipating a new chapter in her life.
Carol's gal pals provide the movie its own Greek chorus: Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb all have their moments.
Haley's direction hardly qualifies as ambitious. Still, this mostly quiet movie deserves credit for dealing with something real: the emptiness that can accrue to those who are left alone and who sometimes feel the taunting vacancy in a day's silence.
Besides, you get to hear Carol, a former singer, do a karaoke version of Cry Me A River that may just give you new insight into the song, as well as a greater appreciation for Danner's ample gifts.