Monday, 27 July 2009


Stephen Walker's documentary follows a group of New England senior citizens who bring rock, punk, disco and old classic standards to appreciative audiences in the US and Europe. This remarkable band of pensioners not only deliver lovable amateur interpretations of some (for them) very leftfield songs, but also become movers and shakers with some winning onstage bopping.
While Walker's direction may sometimes come over as invasion of privacy, it's hard to totally disagree with his choices as the camera captures the triumphs, despair and heartbreaking sadness that increases with age and, in the process, makes us love each and everyone of the characters.

YOUNG@HEART follows this plucky troupe during the course of a six week rehearsal period, leading up to a special concert in their hometown. With an average age of eighty, it was almost inevitable that failing health would conspire to throw an almighty spanner in the works and that's precisely what happens as a great sadness consumes the group. Indeed, it's well nigh impossible to view this without shedding a good few tears, but the end result is a wholly uplifting experience as one marvels at the courage and spirit displayed by a group of individuals who defy the usual conventions surrounding their age. Their story is all about friendship; about never giving up and continuing to do the things that they enjoy. It's about living life to the full, and is a lesson to us all.

It's hard to select standout moments in a production brimming with them: a concert for the inmates at Hampshire County Jail is one, as prisoners (visibly moved) rise to applaud following a moving version of Dylan's "Forever Young", while a spirited music video of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" had be tapping my feet and grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps the real standout - and easily the most poignant moment - comes when Fred Knittle performs a beautiful rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You", in tribute to his recently deceased friend. It's one of those rare moments that hits you hard, and reminds you of beloved ones no longer here.

YOUNG@HEART: sad, funny, and essential viewing. My heartfelt thanks and respect to everyone involved.

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