Some Kind Of Heaven
The opening of Lance Oppenheim’s accomplished debut, a documentary about retirement community The Villages, with its shots of synchronised golf buggy sessions and karate classes for seniors, suggests arch whimsy is in store. Then it turns into something far richer and affecting.
Founded in the 80s and situated in Central Florida, The Villages is a massive retirement community of some 100,000 people, sporting numerous recreation centres and seemingly endless activity opportunities, the promoters describing it as akin to being on permanent holiday.
Oppenheim explores life behind the façade via a number of its residents. Barbara moved there with her husband from Boston, but he died shortly after. Unable to raise sufficient funds to go back home, she works in a rehab centre to maintain her upkeep, while looking for new romance. Dennis is an eightysomething ladies’ man who struggles with responsibility; he lives in a van and is hoping to meet a wealthy woman to look after him. Annie and Reggie have been married nearly fifty years, but Reggie’s increasing drug experimentation and exploration of alternative lifestyles are causing problems in their marriage, even getting him in serious trouble with the law.
One of the Village inhabitants remarks that it’s just like college, an observation borne out by the awkward flirtations and envelope-pushing behaviour.
It’s a rarefied and strangely affectless existence the residents are leading in this ersatz old-timey community with an invented history, but the profiled characters remain eminently relatable, particularly the women. The permanent party atmosphere is clearly not for the more thoughtful Barbara, but she’s trying her best, while watching Annie struggling to hold her marriage together as her husband’s behaviour becomes ever more erratic is heart-breaking.
Cinematographer David Bolen’s elegantly composed images and Ari Balouzian’s swooning orchestral score, replete with harp stylings, wittily underline the artificiality of the place.
Some Kind of Heaven is available to stream from 14th May
Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm