“I heard this great definition of suffering which said, ‘suffering is wanting things to be different from what they are’. If you think about it, all suffering can be boiled down to that on some level; wanting something to be different than what it is.”
Josh Radnor may be famous for his comic portrayal of Ted Mosby in the award-winning American sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but it’s instantly clear upon speaking to him that the 38 year old has something deep to say with his newest directorial effort Liberal Arts.
[pullquote_left]I just realized how much older I was than everyone and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how that had happened[/pullquote_left]
The film, released in the US on September 14th, tells the story of an unhappy adult, Jesse, given the chance to return to Kenyan College in Ohio when his professor asks him to provide a speech at his retirement party.
Meeting various new students, ex-teachers and reliving life on the campus, Jesse realizes he’s been nostalgically holding onto this segment of his life for too long and must finally let go and face adulthood.
An alumnus of Kenyan himself, Liberal Arts is very much a personal film for Josh Radnor, one based on his own experiences of growing up and looking back on happier, more carefree time in his life.
“I went back to Kenyan to show Happythankyoumoreplease, my first movie, and I just realized how much older I was than everyone and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how that had happened,” he says.
“There’s an arrogance to youth because you don’t understand that time is moving. You’re just kind of like ‘Yooouuung!’ and then suddenly, you don’t know how, but you’re not the youngest person in the room anymore.”
[pullquote_right]Whatever I do is not like, ‘The prodigiously young Mr. Radnor’. It’s like, ‘Oh, Mr. Radnor did something’[/pullquote_right]
But Liberal Arts is far from a serious plunge into the profound themes of existentialism and aging. In fact, Josh Radnor’s film is an extremely heartwarming and funny one. After all, it’s clear that comedy is something that comes very naturally to the filmmaker, finding humour in everything from his own memories of Kenyan to his tough decision to cut an actor out of the film (“Poor actor. Gone,” he jokes at one point).
Even when sharing his own painful experiences of growing into adulthood, he does so amusingly.
“A few years ago, I realized I was too old to be a prodigy, now I’m just expected to maybe do something interesting. Whatever I do is not like, ‘The prodigiously young Mr. Radnor’. It’s like, ‘Oh, Mr. Radnor did something’,” he laughs.
But while Radnor openly discusses the feelings he felt upon “getting booted out of the ivory towers of the academic world” and “plunging into ice cold waters of adulthood”, he insists that his days of wistfulness are over.
“The emotions Jesse feels about college were for me 26 or 27 year old emotions, by the time I was 35 I wasn’t quite as nostalgic.”
“So writing the movie was a dialogue with myself… not about losing my mind about aging and growing up but instead asking what gifts are there for me.”
Liberal Arts hits theatres on September 14th 2012. Check out the trailer and poster for Liberal Arts HERE.
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