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Young@Heart (2008)***1/2

May 18, 2009


Young@Heart (2008) poster

Directed by: Stephen Walker

PG, 1 hr. 47 min.
Release Date: Jul 01, 2007
DVD Release Date: Sep 16, 2008

You may find yourself just as surprised as I was by the poignancy and relevance the popular songs sung by seniors have in this life-affirming documentary about oldsters living life. At first, this film showcasing adorable and quirky oldsters would seem to have all the makings of a saccharine overdose. While it does give us a few overly cutesy moments, the remarkable thing is that its sappy quotient is kept to a minimum. This turns out to be a relieving aspect of the film since the subject matter is designed to be less of a comedy and moreso a tribute to those who are so often written off in American society. It’s not a new subject but it’s often one that is not focused on enough. While director Stephen Walker catches some wonderfully heartfelt moments, the filmmaker occasionally falters with a lack of subtlety. His voiceover narration can be a lil forced, not letting the audience figure out the emotions on out own. The four jokey music videos of the New England Young@Heart chorus performing songs by David Bowie (“Golden Years”), Talking Heads (“Road to Nowhere”), the Ramones (“I Wanna Be Sedated”) and the Bee Gees (“Stayin’ Alive”) can pull you out a bit but they are nonetheless entertaining and break up some of the emotionally heavy parts of the film. At least they didn’t feel exploitative at all, they were clearly having a ball. The average of the chorus is 80 and is directed by 53 year-old, Bob Cilman who runs a tight ship with these oldies. The catch is that he has these grandparents sing unconventional tunes like tunes like Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia” and Coldplay’s “Fix You” which take on a whole different angle when the lead is on oxygen, sitting in a folding chair. “Fix You” in particular is a beautiful, poignant moment, one that lingers in your mind long after the picture ends. Something Chris Martin could never do. Try not to get misty-eyed. That might sound like kitsch, but think again. While most of the 24 chorus members concede their personal tastes run toward classical, the varied music gives its seniors a challenge, a chance to enjoy camaraderie and, most important, stay active. Only the most hard-hearted viewers would be able to resist this inspiring tale of a chorus of seniors who specialize in rock ‘n’ roll that shows the transcendent power of music.

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