‘Young@Heart’ entertains all ages

Douglas Hite

Courtesy Fox Searchlight

Credit: Ron Soltys

When covering a song, an artist has to be able to bring something new to the piece. The cover has to either be better or completely different for it to be at all successful. The majority of the time, this endeavor fails.

The Young@Heart chorus performs covers. They usually don’t do it better than the original. So, what is their draw? That exists somewhere in their most notable attribute. Their median age is 80.

This well-aged posse stars in a new documentary named after the chorus. Shot by British filmmaker Stephen Walker over the course of seven weeks, Young@Heart follows a group of seniors who perform some of the least predictable numbers one could imagine.

Blaring Sonic Youth, the Clash, James Brown, Coldplay and an extensive list of the hip artists these old-timers have never heard of, the chorus sings along. They give their individual spins on these numbers and elate in their newly learned pieces in a way that will startle audiences and is guaranteed to bring chuckles.

Part of the charm of the Young@Heart chorus is that they all are bound to remind us of someone in our lives — grandparents, neighbors, figures from youth — and they are put in this surreal environment filled with punk and new age numbers, which they gladly bellow out. The contrast between these two concepts are fodder for most of the documentary’s humor.

As might be expected, the bulk of the movie is not humorous. Often, and unexpectedly, we are reminded in ever-saddening ways that these singing seniors are only young in mind and action, and all bodies do eventually fail. This is a theme that we see reoccurring when we least want it to.

Often we have laughed at the phrase, “It made me laugh, it made me cry,” as hardly any films exist in which that saying is applicable. During its premier at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Y Young@Heart did exactly that. More than once in the movie, the theater could be heard simultaneously laughing, sobbing or applauding — a feat this reviewer has never experienced before.

Young@Heart is a rare breed of documentaries, in which the viewer is not polarized by a filmmaker stressing personal opinions, but actually can unite an audience and forge a surprising bond among its members. It is fit for all ages and can easily be enjoyed by all ages.Released yesterday in New York and Los Angeles, Young@Heartwill likely see national distribution soon and will premier at the Cedar Lee Theatre on May 2.

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Directed by Stephen Walker

Distributed by Fox Searchlight

Local release date: May 2, Cedar Lee Theatre

Stater rating (out of five): **** ½

Contact all reporterDouglas Hite at [email protected].