Lives Well Lived (NR)

Documentary 72 min. April 20, 2018
By Daphne Howland
Inspired by her 103-year-old grandmother, Lives Well Lived director Sky Bergman set out to collect wit, wisdom and life stories from people often called “elderly” or even “the old old” — between the ages of 75 and 100. She presents her subjects as ordinary folk, but most are extraordinary in their own ways. Some have harrowing tales of childhood escapes to the United States from war and holocaust, one Japanese-American was interned at U.S. camps, many are artists. None seems to be struggling on meager Social Security checks or much debilitated by health problems.

Indeed, quite a few possess a preternatural vigor. Despite their advanced age, many are still working — making mozzarella, dancing, sculpting, posing in impossible yoga positions. Their wisdom is real, though much of it is of the ilk frequently recorded elsewhere. “It’s not your numerical age, it’s your biological age,” says 86-year-old, model-beautiful Emmy Cleaves. “So think young, feel young, act young. Forget the number.”

Full of such bon mots, the documentary is the epitome of positive thinking, perhaps the closest thing America has to a state religion. Still, like social worker Wendy Lustbader’s book What’s Worth Knowing, which took a similar tack years ago, it’s an opportunity to connect with souls who’ve been around more than a few blocks. “Life plays with you, doesn’t it?” says 91-year-old Barbara Dreyfuss, offering a rare war cry. “You have to take it and you have to battle it.”
Sky Bergman Doris Achterkirchen, Blanche Brown, Irene Devin, Brenda Edelson, Evy Justesen Shadow Distribution

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