YOUNG @ HEART
(director: Stephen Walker; cinematographer: Ed Marritz; editor: Chris King; Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Sally George; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2007)
“A rare feelgood film that actually made me feel good.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A rare feelgood film that actually made me feel good. British TV documentary filmmaker Stephen Walker’s inspirational film, narrated by him, is about two dozen or so animated chorus singers, with a strong will to live and perform music, whose average age is 80, who were formed in 1982 in their hometown of Northampton, Mass. and have performed all over the world since (having toured Australia, Europe and Canada, and even performed for the Norwegian king and queen). The mostly amateur senior singers have a varied repertoire that includes punk rock music from The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” to more mellow tunes like David Bowie’s “Golden Years.” We view them in rehearsals in 2006, mostly, as they work with their longtime intrepid taskmaster, the good-hearted chorale director Bob Cilman, as they struggle during the three times a week rehearsals to get right complicated new numbers like Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia” and the James Brown soul tune “I Feel Good” for an upcoming show in two months.
During the course of the documentary several of their lives are covered: we follow the oldest member, the spry 92-year-old Eileen Hall, and the one time star singer Fred Knittle, who is in declining health because of congestive heart failure but feels honored that he’s invited back to perform one last time at the big show to sing the beautiful solo of Coldplay’s “Fix You.”
The show goes on even when two members of the chorus, Bob Salvini and Joe Benoit, died within a week. After Bob’s death the group gives a well-received moving concert to an appreciative inmate audience at Hampshire Jail, as they sing the showstopper Bob Dylan tune of “Forever Young.” Following the well-liked Joe’s death, the group performs to a sold-out Academy of Music theater in Northampton and receive a well-deserved standing ovation as they perform “Yes We Can Can.” That’s the daunting Allen Toussaint hit for the Pointer Sisters, whose lyrics repeat “can” 71 times in elaborate, staccato patterns.
In a culture that tries its best to ignore the elderly and strives mostly to promote a youth culture, this irresistible tribute film is a reminder that the golden years can be fun. It’s a funny, joyous and tearful film that asserts keeping active by doing what you like to do best to be an excellent spiritual remedy for aging.
REVIEWED ON 6/1/2008 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/