Young @ Heart

Young @ Heart


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

Young@Heart is a group of 24 80–90-year-old singers who perform a wildly eclectic mix of music, led by the 50-something Bob Cilman, a man of seemingly limitless resources and energy. This documentary follows the chorus as they prepare for their latest concert, Alive And Well. Time and logistics prevent Walker from filming every member of the chorus closely, so he picks his main subject carefully, weaving their intriguing stories into the rehearsal process.

We get to really know the marvellous Eileen Hall, the eldest singer, who dies not long after the filming is done in July 2007, at 93, Fred Knittle, who sings Fix You strapped to an oxygen tank, Bob Salvini who tries to make a comeback after having the Last Rites read to him twice, Steve Martin, who is almost as irrepressible as his famous compatriot and Joe Benoit who has undergone more chemotherapy than most bodies could tolerate. Each story adds to the fabric that makes up the chorus and reveals their strengths and their spirit.

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Young@Heart follows the seven-week rehearsal period leading up to a live performance that includes Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia, James Brown’s I Feel Good, Coldplay’s Fix You, and Alain Toussaint’s Yes We Can Can. The film is touched by sorrow with the death of some leading lights, but though this adds pathos and poignancy, Walker does not allow it to overshadow the joy and resilience that the chorus demonstrate.

The film is approximately 50 per cent music and 50 per cent documentary. There are four archive music videos featuring the chorus, including marvellous renditions of David Bowie’s Golden Years, The Clash’s Should I stay Or Should I Go and the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive. I would have preferred to see more of this and less of the chorus making a hash of rehearsing I Feel Good but this is a small quibble.

I also think that this documentary lends itself to the small screen better than the cinema. It has an intimacy that succeeds in the smaller medium, so don't panic if you can't catch it on limited release, it loses nothing of its charm on DVD.

Young@Heart will put a smile on your face, a spring in your step and joy in your heart, though you might shed the odd tear too. From the first frame we can’t help smiling because we are surprised by just how vital these geriatric rockers are. Never has old age seemed so young and alive.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2008
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Senior citizens win while they're singing.
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Director: Stephen Walker

Starring: Young@Heart Chorus and Band

Year: 2007

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: UK


Sundance 2008

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