Young @ Heart (2008) ***1/2

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1hr 47min
Director: Stephen Walker
Stars: The Young at Heart Chorus
Genre: Documentary
Language: English

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




The first thing we hear is thunderous applause as we zero in on 93 year-old Eileen Hall’s interpreting of British rock group The Clash’s 80’s hit, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” She looks every bit her age in the closeup, but. . . lit from within. We the audience are hooked and wouldn’t dream of not staying through till the end - and neither would the 24 members of this Massachusetts-based senior citizen chorus.Eileen, we are told, did striptease, starting at age 70 through 90, and she remains flirty with the “boys” (read: the director and his crew). She lives in a nursing home (one wonders why?) and stays out way past the curfew when there are rehearsals. The others in this group aged 70’s to 90’s, which formed in 1982 at a senior center, are no less interesting:

Bob Cilman (53), the musical director and perhaps the group’s biggest fan, coaxes wonderful gutsy performances out of Eileen, Joe Benoit, Bob Salvini, and Fred Knittle, our personal favorite. Knittle’s a man with strong voice, spirit and wit, in spite of being hooked up to an oxygen canister. A highlight of the film is his “music video” in a bowling alley, in the company of two sexy young women, singing “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees.

It’s clear there’s nothing any of them would rather be doing. They risk life and limb to perform, tour the world, rehearse just one more day. This is a film about courage, determination and the desire to grow as a human being even as one grows older. These are ordinary men and women and there’s nothing any longer with the power to scare them.

The trajectory of the film is a leisurely seven week crawl towards the big night - the Alive and Well Concert in Northampton. Will they all make it? (No). But as Eileen and others observe, “Just pull me off the stage and keep on going!” They may have come late to show biz, but they’re true veterans now.

We couldn’t help wanting to hear more “back story” on these spunksters and on their determined choirmaster, Cilman, whose big thrill is the incongruous pairing of oldsters with a repertoire they’ve certainly never been exposed to before. Lovers of classical music, opera, they spend weeks getting straight the lyrics to punk rock classics like Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can.” Some of the lyrics coming out of their mouths are beyond ironic - they’re powerful, touching and inspiring! See James Brown’s “I Feel Good!”

Bring your hankies as you will have a number of bittersweet moments. But we found it hard to feel sad for people living in the moment as these people are, and living every moment to the max. The film is punctuated by rollicking laughter, big smiles, chuckles and one “oy” from Climan. The question you’re left with at the end of the film:
• If you sing: How do I sign up?
• If you don’t: What could I find to do with my life that would bring me this same passion and joy?

The concert in Northampton gets standing ovations; in NYC people were dancing in the back rows of Lincoln Plaza theatre. Neither of us are singers, but we’re on the lookout for our passion, as you should be!

Shelly Hanner, a retired government executive, is honored to be reviewing for this site, and wants everyone to know his teeth are his own. Janet Garber, a human resources executive and published author, has been living with Shelly's corny jokes for some time now, and her only escape is going to the movies!


Wayne D. said on April 19, 2008


Can’t wait to view the movie myself. As a Beatles/Dylan fan there still may be the chance for me to tour when I hit the big nine-0 too. Thanks Shelly and Janet for the nice review of this Senior film.

Hope said on April 20, 2008


This film sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to see it. Great review!

Claire said on April 22, 2008


Awesome review about a movie from which we should all gain inspiration. Thanks!

Kathryn F. said on April 29, 2008


Informative and lively review. Good job!! Nice style.

Gail E. said on May 3, 2008



Emma said on June 19, 2008


Good film choice for this audience.

Seniors, speak up! Let us know what you think.

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