A story of old age, chronicillness and loss could so easily be given the Tuesdays with Morrie treatment and veer into over-sentimentality.But with liberal doses of humour and a cast of genuinely engaging characters, Young@Heart strikes the perfect chord. Review by Fiona Williams.
20 Oct 2008 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 3:40 PM

The Young@Heart chorus is renowned for its lively renditions of contemporary classics. Director Stephen Walker's film follows the chorus members over seven weeks as they prepare for a one night only concert in their home town.

Taken at face value, it's hilarious to watch the enthusiastic oldies belting out disco, punk and grunge anthems but the cheeky irony that underscores their song choices gives an insight into what gives the Young@Hearts their zest for life: Staying Alive, I Wanna Be Sedated, I Feel Good, Every Breath You Take, Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Road to Nowhere…

Oh, they know where they're going alright, but they'll be damned if they're going to waste their time worrying about it.

If this were a fictionalised account, you couldn't write a better cast of characters if you tried: there's 83-year old Joe Benoit, a self-effacing jokester with an uncanny knack for memorising new songs; there's Eileen Hall, an outrageous 92-year old flirt who could pass for at least a decade younger; there's Dora Morrow, a soulful granny who struggles with a repetitive chorus, and there's Steve Martin, a randy ex-Marine who's quick to dispel misconceptions about seniors and sex.

Binding them all together is choirmaster Bob Cilman, who keeps them alert (and alarmed) with tricky lyrics and complicated arrangements that threaten to overwhelm them…

…but with the patience of Job and the discipline of a drill sergeant, Cilman coaxes a performance out of them that knocks their Homy Peds off, come showtime. Though it's a triumph tinged with tragedy.

When a loved one suffers from a terminal illness you can prepare yourself to expect the worst but it's still no less shattering when the time comes, and with the chorus members' delicate ages and chronic health problems, it's no spoiler to hint that not all of them make it to the final curtain call.

As difficult as it may be, there's not much else you can do but pick yourself up and carry on, and it's this philosophy that the Young@Hearts take to with gusto. When they lose one of their own, the loss is felt deeply, but their resolve to carry on is inspiring. They are living proof that the show must go on, and their on-stage tributes to their absent friends are some of the most moving you'll ever see on screen.

Like the dulcet tones of the choir's great baritone Fred Knittle, Young@Heart is pitch-perfect and unforgettable.


Fiona Williams