September 22, 2021

Tantamount to aging rock stars who refuse to spend their latter years indulging in the wealth earned from their heyday, Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, at 91 years old, is showing no signs of retiring after directing and starring in his latest film, Cry Macho.

Born in 1930, the Dirty Harry and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly actor with four Oscars to his name has now been in films in eight different decades.

Cry Macho, like the bulk of his recent pictures, is highly retrospective. Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a retired rodeo cowboy at the end of his career. As if he’s symbolizing Clint Eastwood’s own fear of insipid boredom, Milo wanders aimlessly without family or meaning in his old age. It is only when his old boss calls in a favor, sending him trotting to Mexico to retrieve his son from the grips of his troubled mother, that Milo is reinvigorated.

Retirement doesn’t suit everyone. For some people, their work is their vocation, and in its absence, they feel awash with a lack of purpose. Unyielding to the crippling limitations of old age, at 91 years old, Eastwood does what he’s done best throughout his illustrious career: punches out a hired goon, rides and breaks wild horses, and woos the affection of a widow.

Milo quickly befriends the troubled boy he was sent to retrieve after finding him at a cockfighting ring. The pair road trip and bunk together through the Mexican landscape. Milo teaches Rafo (Eduardo Minett) about manhood. “You think you have all the answers. Then you get old, and you realize you don’t have any of them,”he tells him. Meanwhile, Rafo reminds Milo of his late family, rekindling in him a spark that had burned out years ago.

Eastwood’s skills as a director shine through Cry Macho as he cleverly tells Milo’s journey through his perspective. The Spanish dialogue is never subtitled, leaving the audience, like Milo, reliant on Rafo’s translation for guidance. Like Eastwood, Milo is old and seasoned, and he makes no effort to conceal that fact. But despite his near centurylong experiences in different facets of life, in Mexico, Milo is a foreigner.

While Cry Macho could have been faster-paced and more action-packed had Eastwood just directed the film and cast his character as a younger, middle-aged star — Bradley Cooper from Eastwood’s American Sniper being an obvious choice — it would have lost much of the meaning that made the film stand out.

Cry Macho is a heartfelt film from Eastwood that weaves the importance of faith, family, and fatherhood into a broader message about life. It reminds us that despite our age, a life without purpose feels inadequate and unfulfilled.

Paul McCartney tells a great anecdote from a conversation he once had with Willie Nelson, who continues to record and tour at 88 years old. He asked Nelson what he thought about retirement, to which Nelson simply replied, “Retire from what?”

For Eastwood’s Milo, that was breaking horses and tending to a ranch; for Eastwood himself, it’s telling timeless stories about embattled Americans. And he has no plans to stop.

Originally Published at The Washington Examiner