If you thought dating in your 20s was hard, try dating in your 60s. 

That’s the basis for “Our Almost Completely True Story,” a delightfully sincere romantic comedy about the trials and tribulations of love, dating, and romance past middle age. Directed by Don Scardino and written by actress Mariette Hartley and voice actor Jerry Sroka, the film tells the titularly “almost true” story of Hartley and Sroka’s real late in life, unlikely romance. 

The effortlessness of Hartley and Sroka’s chemistry anchors the film, their real life connection helping to forge a more organic one on screen, and their excellent comedy chops allowing for zingers and puns galore. But for all its wisecracking charm, “Our Almost Completely True Story” never forgets the most important and endearing part of that story – the romance. 

In real life, Mariette Hartley married Jerry Sroka in 2005. They seem an unlikely pairing upon first glance. She’s a tall, graceful, star of the screen, best known for things like Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country” and “The Incredible Hulk.” He’s a short, bespectacled voice actor, whom you’ve probably heard in things like “Antz,” “Family Guy,” and “The Wild Thornberrys.” But their unlikely attraction soon seems inevitable. The film retells a sometimes real, sometimes fictitious version of their meeting and eventual courtship, filled with over the top bits about the perils of online dating, wistful remembrances of the old days of Hollywood, and awkward run-ins with exes. 

These bits and extended gags are perfectly witty and charming, but what lingers in your mind as the credits roll are the film’s sharp insights about the inherent vulnerability of dating, and how the older you get, the harder it becomes to really lay yourself bare before someone new. Hartley and Sroka have both done this song and dance before, probably both more often than they would have liked to. Once you’ve already tackled the hard parts of dating – the monumental task of letting someone really know you – and it didn’t work, what would it take to make you try it all again? What kind of person would make it all worth it? 

Both Sroka and Hartley start with their guards up. She hides behind rapier-like wit, while he loses himself in a multitude of characters he’s created over the years. But the script slowly strips away at their respective walls, conversations morphing from clever tennis matches to something more meaningful as they let one another in. The film offers a particularly sensitive look at Hartley’s relationship with mental health and suicide, tackling her relationship with her father who killed himself when she was younger. 

There’s a lot of pain baked into Hartley’s performance of this version of herself, from the way she jumps at the sound of gunfire while visiting a western convention, to the heartbreaking conversation she later has with Sroka about her father’s love of hunting. It’s evident in the way that she carries herself how much sharing this with Sroka weighs on her, but when she’s done she seems lighter somehow. Her physicality is further proof of the film’s desire to dig into its characters’ weak spots, with the promise of love at the end of the tunnel. 

For Sroka’s part, this version of himself is dealing with a lifetime of hiding behind the voices and characters he has built for himself, scared that if someone really saw him, they might not like what they find. But, he is willing to take that risk for Hartley. The way the two lean on each other at various points throughout the film, stripping away those layers of protection as tenderly as possible, is the film’s most enduring quality. The idea that sometimes the pain is worth it, that sometimes love does work out, offers a sense of comfort to the audience – just like the old black-and-white movies that Hartley and Sroka watch together offer comfort to them. After all, isn’t that what we all want? Someone to hold our hand on the couch, rest their head on our shoulder, and watch the Marx Brothers with?

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.