Rating: 2.5 stars
The 40 senior citizens featured in the documentary “Lives Well Lived” (ages 75 to 103) might be expected to have accumulated some wisdom. Director Sky Bergman asks them: What is essential to longevity, happiness and fulfillment? Their responses are sensible — put down those cellphones, kids — but hardly revelatory.
As a form of life coaching, this documentary is, in fact, kind of a dud. No wonder Bergman budgets more time for the dramatic biographies of a dozen of the interviewees, including her own grandmother. The 12 don’t exactly constitute a representative sample of Medicare-eligible Americans. All but two ended up in California. The majority are artists of some kind. And half are foreign-born. Several escaped Hitler or Stalin (or both). One was sent to an internment camp in the United States for the offense of being of Japanese descent.
Their stories are eventful and moving, and well supported by archival photos and footage. When Marion Wolff recalls traveling via the Kindertransport for Jewish children escaping the Third Reich, Bergman manages to find footage of her arrival in Britain as an 8-year-old.
It helps that the movie’s subjects don’t just sit there. Lou Tedone, a retired doctor, is still making homemade mozzarella. Emmy Cleaves, who was separated from her family at 15 while fleeing Latvia, is a steadfast yogini. Blanche Brown, a Yoruba priest, continues to teach African dance. When such vigorous people instruct younger viewers to stay active, that advice is far from idle.
Unrated. At the Cinema Arts Theatre. Contains reminiscences of oppression and violence. 72 minutes.