Description from TIFF 2012 catalog by Thom Powers:
Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark met in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and, despite leading very different lives, have remained close friends ever since. Shepard became a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright (Buried Child) and an Academy Award®–nominated actor (The Right Stuff), while Dark was a homebody with a penchant for letter writing and photography, supporting himself with odd jobs — from dogcatcher to deli worker. Through the decades, they stayed bonded by family ties. Dark married an older woman named Scarlett; Shepard married her daughter. The two couples lived together for years until Shepard broke away for a relationship with Jessica Lange in 1982, leaving Johnny to help raise Shepard’s first son. Nevertheless, he and Dark continued writing to each other, amassing hundreds of letters.
Director Treva Wurmfeld began filming the two friends in 2010 during a period of transition and reflection for Shepard. He had quietly ended his relationship with Lange at the time and accepted a proposal to publish his correspondence with Dark. The task required them to meet and sift through years of their shared history, stirring memories both good and bad. Wurmfeld observes the two men, separately and together, over a period of eighteen months and captures an indelible portrait of a complex friendship. On the surface, they are like jovial siblings, having laughs at each other’s expense, but as they trace back four decades of experience, each man taps into deeper subjects of love, duty, fatherhood, illness, grief, passion, money, art, freedom and isolation.
Shepard has an avowed aversion to writing his memoirs and prefers to let his work speak for itself. However, with rare intimacy and access to a rich archive of old photographs and family movies, Wurmfeld manages to unveil the past in a way that speaks both to Shepard’s work and to his current state of mind. Shepard has always had an arresting screen presence, from his first appearance in Days of Heaven to his latest work in Mud. He’s equally compelling as himself, and well-matched playing opposite the screen debut of Johnny Dark.