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The Scrambler
Young @ Heart
a review by Heather Craig
When I was a teenager, my grandpa and I were walking a nature trail at Woodson Park.  There was
a tree with a branch that extended across the trail about 6 feet above the ground. My short, 70-
something grandpa got a running (OK, jogging) start, jumped, and swung off the branch, then
nonchalantly waited for me to catch up with him. He was beaming at how floored I was. I thought of
this incident while I was watching
Young@Heart, a documentary about the eponymously named
geriatric chorus which has performed worldwide.

Stephen Walker directed this film, in which the chorus’ average member is an octogenarian.
However, while the chorus members may be given to expressions like, “God willing and the creek
don’t rise” (a personal favorite of my aforementioned grandpa) or “Back in the saddle again,” and
their own musical preference seems to be classical, especially opera, that is not what they are
famous for singing. No, they sing rock, and the first song we see them singing is The Clash’s “Should
I Stay or Should I Go?”

“I Feel Good.” Never has an “
Oww!” been so endearing. The Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can Can”
across the board in this feisty group.
across the board in this feisty group.

Along with Dora and Stan, we meet several of the group’s other singers beginning with flirty, 92
year old Eileen. She is
Young@Heart’s oldest member, seems to be growing a goatee, and has an
obvious joy in life, particularly in the group itself. This joy runs through the entire group, from
Lennie, one of the few members who can still drive, to Steve, bragging about his girlfriend giving
him a statuette proclaiming him a “sexy beast,” to Joe, who is one of the few who can memorize
lyrics with ease, to Bob, afraid he’ll be replaced in his big number if his health doesn’t improve.
Given the age of their members, it is no surprise that Young@Heart is plagued by ill health. More
surprising is their calm, humorous acceptance of their maladies and their determination to soldier
on in spite of them.  The best example of this is Fred, a former member returning after an
improvement in health. Fred has congestive heart failure, goes nowhere without his oxygen, and
has written out his own eulogy. He also has one of the strongest voices in the group as he  can go
very low “depending on how tight my shorts are,” and does an absolutely beautiful and  moving
rendition of Cold Play’s “Fix You.”

Occasionally the straight documentary style is broken by music video footage. It is unclear if this
footage was produced specifically for the documentary, but while they were cute, funny, and well-
produced (especially the one for  The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”), the music video footage
takes a bit away from the otherwise authentic feel of the overall film.  Never does the film feel more
authentic as when the group is visited by brutal reality. Their reaction to it is as true as it gets, and
while I’ve never been a crier, if you watch them sing Dylan’s “Forever Young” without getting
misty-eyed, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.  This poignancy is what brings depth to the film,
what if you will, gives
Young@Heart its heart.  Grandpa would approve.
*Heather Craig lives in Davis, California.
movie poster for Young @ Heart