Like movies about kids who spell or athletes in wheelchairs, a non-fiction film about old people who sing rock, funk, punk, and blues in a community chorus that has dazzled international audiences on concert tours comes formidably fortified by its ironclad charm factor. To be honest, I settled in skeptically, expecting to be gummed into submission. Two dozen or so amateur singers, based in Northampton, Mass., lend their group’s name to Stephen Walker’s surprisingly profound documentary Young@Heart. The singers’ average age is 80, and they do, at times, shamelessly milk the geezers-gone-wild promotional possibilities of tackling Coldplay, the Clash, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, Prince, and James Brown. But Walker, a British documentarian who fell under the Young@Heart spell three years ago when he heard the group take on David Byrne’s ”Road to Nowhere” on a London stage (and experienced the audience’s extraordinary emotional reaction), has found a delicate, thoughtful, respectful, witty way to convey both the matter-of-fact dignity of the individual men and women singing ”Should I Stay or Should I Go” and ”Fix You,” as well as the ineffable power of determining to live fully until there’s no breath left. Physical frailty, illness, and death are not magically overcome by showing up for rehearsal; the group, led by music director Bob Cilman, has cause to mourn during the course of Walker’s time with them. They also make joyful music, communicated, both by the singers and their playful, sensitive documentarian, with an authority that quite knocks off socks. A-
(Brandy Eve Allen)
Genre: Documentary, Musical; Director: Stephen Walker; Runtime (in minutes): 108; MPAA Rating: PG; Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Posted January 17 2015 — 10:36 AM EST
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