REVIEW: Some Kind of Heaven (Sundance 2020)
Lance Oppenheim’s “Some Kind of Heaven” illustrates the multiplex “fountain of youth” streaming through the lives of those living within The Villages, Florida’s largest, well-equipped retirement community. It feels like a perfect examination, given Oppenheim is in his twenties, that the documentary observes the idiosyncracies of old age, growing with a partner’s ailing mental state, and finding your place in a world much different than your youth. Aging isn’t just finding a home to hitch your life on; it’s a constantly complicated and rewarding thing.
Oppenheim’s feature debut curates the many colorful and nuanced facets of aging, the ways we come to rethink our social vibrancy and shake things up for ourselves anew. It highlights the rediscovered curiosity for love and life in a widowed woman, Barbara, now searching for companionship months after her husband passed of illness. She is the only subject of the film who is still maintains full time job, despite living amongst the lush accommodations of The Villages’ leisurely terrain. She vows to put herself out there, engage with acting classes and eventually mingles with a margarita aficionado who seems more involved with his social life than hanging his hat up just yet. It’s a lonely and embattled time scape into figuring things out in your later life. When it feels you’ve already lived your own with someone and then having to uproot yourself into another one is intimidating, but Barbara has an undeniable resilience to her that makes her the most interesting of the documented bunch.
Elsewhere on the tennis courts, longtime married couple, Anne and Reggie, experience Florida’s bountiful luxuries through activity and remaining busy bodies. Anne is very supportive of Reggie, a man who is mighty funny and even spiritual onscreen, but not always there mentally for himself or his marriage. It’s not so simple when Reggie has a run-in with the law on possession of drugs. Digging himself out of trouble at the court podium is an ailing obstacle that results in his mental state to get the best of him. It’s a concerning, yet all too familiar, portrait of mental health amongst those aging and suffering because of it. Their story becomes a journey that anticipates more changes for their marriage, something Anne finds herself more and more affected by.
Posted up poolside is Dennis, an 81-year-old wandering pleasure seeker. He doesn’t live within the gates of The Villages, but doesn’t mind pretending. He’s on the search for a wealthy woman to get hitched with, something he’s very outright about from the beginning. He seems sleazy and careless, but also embodies the sensibilities and aspirations of someone who never quite got the right footing in life all those years ago and is trying to feel fulfilled at least at half measures. It’s a matter of living in the present for him until he is forced not to. He’s a case in point that sometimes life will truly pass you by if you aren’t willing to prepare yourself for the future. Oppenheim has a clear sense of his subjects in this regard.
“Some Kind of Heaven” plays like a picturesque fairytale saturated in golf carts and water aerobics, but underneath it all is a compelling, albeit average, look at lives past the middle checkpoint. There is dancing and moments of total whimsy, a dazzling and lingering reminder that senior life is all of our lives.
Directed by: Lance Oppenheim