Reviewer's grade: A-
Young@Heart is the name of a New England chorus in which the median age is 80, but don't expect to hear "Sweet Adeline." These oldsters are renowned for performances of rock, punk and soul. While the idea of octogenarians crooning Ramones tunes has serious kitsch potential, "Young@Heart" is hardly gimmicky.
Documentarian Stephen Walker follows seven weeks of rehearsals during which the chorus learns new songs (Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" is especially tricky) and weathers the deaths of some beloved members. The emerging tale is a sweetly rendered, surprisingly unsentimental film about how a group of seniors has transcended the infirmities of age. The inexorable spell of "Young@Heart" is encapsulated when the chorus performs at a jail.
At first the inmates chortle at what appears to be a novelty act, but smirks are long gone by the time the chorus concludes with an elegiac version of "Forever Young." The expressions of the inmates belie a newfound understanding and admiration for these extraordinary folks. PG