Life & Culture

Film review: Some Kind of Heaven

Linda Marric is impressed by a documentary about a retirement village in Florida


We’ve all heard about what goes on behind the closed gates of some of Florida’s most popular retirement communities. With promises of an exciting night life, endless group activities and an all you can eat buffet of potential love interests for single seniors, these institutions have often been likened to college campuses for the over 60s. Sadly, as liberating and inviting as this might sound, some retirees feel let down by their new lives in the sun.

In his debut documentary feature Some Kind of Heaven, 25-year- old Jewish director Lance Oppenheim trawls the streets, bars and clubs of The Villages, a heavily populated retirement community in his native central Florida, in search of those who haven’t found their happy ever after in this artificial Utopia. Produced by award-winning director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), the film presents a timely and necessary look at old age and loneliness in one of the richest countries in the world.

Established by Jewish developer Harold Schwartz, The Villages was billed as a place for baby boomers to recapture the America of their youth. With its 1950s style white picket fenced homes, palm tree lined streets and twee corner shops, The Villages feels like you’re stepping into a past that now only exists in movies. And if this all sounds a little MAGA, it’s no coincidence — you’d be be hard pressed to see a non white face among the 130,000 plus residents.

Oppenheim follows four disenfranchised individuals for whom life hasn’t been a bed of roses since moving down south. Among them is Barbara who moved from Boston to The Villages with her husband some ten years earlier. Recently widowed and feeling lonelier than ever, Barbara wishes she could go back to New England but the money has run out and she’s had to go back to work full time.

Elsewhere, married couple Reggie and Anne are at breaking point as a result of Reggie’s penchant for recreational substances and erratic behaviour. Oppenheim also follows 81-year-old Dennis, a homeless musician from California who has travelled to Florida in the hope of finding a generous widow to take care of him.

Oppenheim tells all their stories with a keen eye and unbridled fondness for these oddballs and unconventional characters. The awkward silences, deadpan deliveries and semi-comedic tone are often reminiscent of Louis Theroux’s early BBC work which gave us a previously unseen slice of middle America.

Overall, this is a beautifully layered and engaging debut from a young documentarian who is already showing great maturity in the way he has chosen to broach this subject. Oppenheim has managed to pull the curtain just far enough to reveal the fake joviality behind an industry which capitalises on people’s hopes, but eventually can leave them high and dry and for the most unlucky, broke.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive