Starring: Bob Cilman, Fred Knittle, Eileen Hall
Directed by: Stephen Walker (“Waiting for Harvey”)
Anyone considered to be in the golden years of their lives would be lucky to have as much spunk and personality as the subjects in the heartwarming and heartbreaking documentary “Young At Heart.” It will lift you up long after you leave the theater.
On the surface, “Young at Heart” is the true story of a group of senior citizens based out of Northampton, MA, who sing in a chorus where most of the songs performed are not the typical lyrics you would think 70, 80 and 90 year olds would be interested in. From Sonic Youth to Coldplay to the Ramones, these elderly men and women find joy in coming together and learning new songs to sing across the U.S. and in Europe.
While we learn about some of the members of the chorus during the moving documentary, we also find about why the choir members, some of whom have overcome tremendous health issues during the course of their lives, keep coming back to memorize and perfect songs their great-great grandchildren probably have in their IPods. You’re made of stone if throughout the film’s 107 minutes you are not either smiling or in a twisted ball of emotion.
It’s nothing that director Stephen Walker really does to pull any heartstrings. He doesn’t drown out any of the drama by becoming overly sentimental. Anything you feel from the film all comes from the choir members themselves. They are the life and blood of this movie and for good reason. Walker actually slows down these vibrant oldies-but-goodies by writing the documentary a bit too much like a human interest story that could be found in a local newspaper. He skims surfaces but manages to fall back on the incredible hearts of his singers.
One of the most touching storylines “Young at Heart” follows is about an elderly man named Fred Knittle and his special one-time return to the choir to sing a duet with a friend. The song choir director Bob Cilman chooses for them is Coldplay’s “Fix You.” It’s without a doubt one of the great single film scenes of this year when put into context.
At it’s core, “Young at Heart” is about finding something in life that you can live for. It’s about not letting something as natural as old age dictate your ability to survive mind, body and soul. It’s a movie about the harmony in music and the spirit.