Thursday, 23 October 2008

Young@Heart: Movie Review

Young@Heart: Movie Review

Rating: 9/10
Cast: The Young@Heart song chorus, Bob Cilman (chorus director)
Director: Stephen Walker
If I were to tell you that I had spent an evening with a group of septagenarians and octagenarians, you may raise an eyebrow.
If I were to expand on that and tell you that those 20 octagenarians had reduced me to near tears and wide grins with their singing, you'd maybe think I'd gone a bit nuts.
So let me explain - set in America, this film tells the story of the Young@Heart chorus, a group of 20 or so New England retirees who spend their spare time performing on stage.
There's nothing unusual about that, but this group spends their evenings giving us their unique take on pop songs from the likes of James Brown, The Clash, Coldplay, Talking Heads and in a slightly surreal decision, Sonic Youth.
The doco from Stephen Walker follows the group as, seven weeks out, they prepare for a new tour, ironically named "Alive and Well tour", under the tutelage of chorus director and musical manager Bob Cilman.
And that's all there is to it really.
Except for the fact, this is probably one of the most endearing and uplifting documentaries I have seen in a very long time; at turns, amusing and funny and then when you least expect it, heartbreaking and capable of reducing you to tears.
Throughout, we watch Bob Cilman try to coax the gang into getting their heads round the new songs he wants them to perform.
We see one soloist struggle through rehearsals to remember two crucial lines of James Brown's "I Feel Good" (which leads to tension on show night), the heartbreak of a duet of Coldplay's "Fix U" plagued by ill health - and while all this is going on, the doco is interspersed with music videos the Young@Heart Chorus has made (including Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere", and the Bee Gees "Staying Alive" - the irony of which isn't lost on anyone watching this)
These pensioners have more life in them than you've ever seen - when their director increases the number of rehearsals, they grumble and gripe like kids but just get on with it such is their joie de vivre.
Their enthusiasm is infectious - from the opening moments when a 92-year old woman sings The Clash's anthem "Should I Stay or Go?", I was hooked and moved by the journey the group goes on; not only do these singers have to worry about dying on stage, off stage it's a very real concern for them.
This is easily a contender for one of the films of the year as far as I'm concerned.

It has heart, soul and sadness in equal measures - and if you go to see it and it doesn't touch you at all, then I'm afraid you must have a heart of stone.

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