Young@Heart: George and Walker’s Docu of Senior Citizens Band

The inspirational documentary “Young@Heart,” by Sally George and Stephen Walker, depicts seven weeks in the lives of the members of the Young@Heart Chorus. Based in Northampton, Massachusetts, the group is made up of two-dozen young-spirited senior citizens, who specialize in reinterpreting rock, punk and R & B classics from a unique perspective.

This non-fictional work premiered last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is now being released by Fox Searchlight.

“Young@Heart” offers an offbeat yet poignant look at the members as they prepare for a one night only concert in their hometown. The diverse group includes former schoolteachers, executives, doctors and food service workers, and the chorus is guided by their longtime director Bob Cilman.

With less than two months to go until the crucial concert, the performers struggle with the new lyrics and unfamiliar melodies of seven new songs. During their thrice-weekly rehearsals, they gradually take possession of music ranging from R&B classics like Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” to Coldplay’s emotionally touching ballad “Fix You.” In the process, the docu contests and defeats social assumptions and cultural stereotypes about old age, love, sex and death.

As the feature begins, the retirees, led by their demanding musical director, are rehearsing their new show, struggling with Sonic Youth’s dissonant rock anthem “Schizophrenia,” giving new meaning to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” What emerges is a funny and unexpectedly moving testament to friendship, creative inspiration, and defying expectations.

Make no mistakes, there’s also melodrama and several human interest stories. Though starting out as a lighthearted look at a quirky musical group, Young@Heart gradually gains gravitas, when two members of the chorus die within days of each other. As a result, the lyrics of the group’s repertoire take on powerful new significance.

From 92-year-old war bride Eileen Hall’s rousing rendition of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” to Pat Linderme’s moving interpretation of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” each performance responds to the ravages of age with poignancy and emotional depth.

Some suspense is built into the proceedings and the timetable. Not so much the question of will they make it as how well will they make it Hence, you’ll find yourself rooting for the group to succeedbig way! After almost two months of shooting, the Young@Heart Chorus delivers a triumphant performance that celebrates the joy of music and the lives of their lost friends. The end result is an inspirational journey with a singular group of people who may be old in body, but refuse to grow old in spirit.

Walker’s docu is not a great piece of filmmaking, but it’s worth seeing, preferably with senior members of your own clan.

Credits

Narrator: Stephen Walker.

A Fox Searchlight release of a Walker George Films presentation, in association with Channel Four.
Produced by Sally George.
Executive producer: Hannah Beckerman.
Directed by Stephen Walker.
Camera: Edward Marritz.
Editor: Chris King.
Sound: Mark Mandler.
Musicvideo director: Sally George; musicvideo camera, Simon Poulter; musicvideo editor, Vid Price.

Running time: 110 Minutes.