Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Honigmann and her editor Jessica de Koning find an amiable rhythm, moving between straightforward interview segments and more contemplative moments."

If you've ever wondered what it might be like to notch up a century on the planet, this warm documentary from Heddy Honigmann offers a best case scenario window into the world. She follows a series of centenarians, from different countries, as they go about their business, gently quizzing them about their life and attitudes.

Among the most chatty is sex therapist Shirley Zussman. Born in 1915, the New Yorker is three years younger than the equally sociable Viola Smith, who spent her working life as a drummer and now lives in LA. Back in New York, we'll also meet Austrian emigre Mathilde Freund, who recalls seeing Hitler for the first time and has been studying at university for the past 42 years while, in another part of town, former stand-up comic Professor Irwin Corey - born in 1914 - offers his opinions on life, which he describes as "an amazing phenomenon".

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Other countries are also represented. In Peru, Raul Jei, a comparative spring chicken, being born in 1918, continues to practice as a doctor, while Hans Maier, who is two years his junior, talks about human duty to be positive from Amsterdam's The Hague and Norwegian Laila Myrhaug, who is the same age as Hans, quietly goes about the business of her small holding farm.

Honigmann and her editor Jessica de Koning find an amiable rhythm, moving between straightforward interview segments and more contemplative moments where we simply see these people as they get on with living their lives to the full, whether that's setting up websites, going swimming or helping the sick. They also strike a balance between the positive and active mind set adopted by all of these people and the inevitable loss that everyone also experiences with age - whether it is the physical decline or the grief of a loved one who has predeceased you. Despite the geographical spread, there's no escaping the fact that money is certainly a factor in a happy and healthy old age. All of Honigmann's subjects are well-heeled, something which, no doubt, continues to afford them access to good healthcare and it feels like a missed opportunity that the director never touches on this fact during her interviews.

What is here, however, is an enjoying ramble through opinions, from Shirley's back and forth with her sister about the importance of focusing on the past or the future to Raul's thoughts on euthanasia. A documentary that makes you realise the importance of seizing the day and doing something with it.

Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2021
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A look at the lives of centenarians from across the globe.

Director: Heddy Honigmann

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway


DOC NYC 2021

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