Age is one of life’s aspects that dominates our daily routines, and this new Irish documentary takes a look at the nation’s oldest citizens. Those who are 100 years old or older. And it surprisingly was able to get a lot out of this one focussed topic.
The layout is very simple – we get introduced very plainly to each person, and learn a little about their lives, troubles, feeling on reaching the milestone, and their view on life itself. But this is all conveyed in a very relaxed and simple manner. Nothing really gets in the way of their personal tales, keeping the film compact and to-the-point.
We get to meet people from all over Ireland (including some that live in my locality), and the documentary is kind of segmented in different themes. From the introduction, their earliest memories, the 1916 Rising, their first loves, daily routines, and so on. And it is surprising that they have so much to tell without really feeling like they are being scripted, the cameras are set to roll and they just have a chat.
I wasn’t expecting it, but there is something… very symbolic, from hearing stories from men and women who have reached this age group. They have a wealth of memories which they cherish above everything else. They may have lost some mobility, but some can still drive or walk to the shops. They are surrounded by friends, but retain their independent living. And their mentality isn’t burdened by politics or self-goals. They’ve reached a point where they seem very satisfied with what has passed, and with what is to come.
Two problems stuck out for me as I sat in the sold out theatre. The first being the soundtrack which doesn’t vary from its one style, and is too happy-go-lucky to suit being played for the majority of the film. It is the silent pieces that hold the most immersive scenes, but the music makes it feel like the only intention is to play it for laughs – and I don’t think that is what the director wanted it to be analogued as. The second was that some people only get the smallest mention while others get a significant slice of the running time. Now, I totally understand the reasons that may be behind this, since we are talking about very old people who for some, this may have been quite demanding. But it means some stories don’t get told and I feel that was a missed opportunity to give even more layers to this documentary.
But by the end, I found it very hard to be cynical towards “Older than Ireland”, it is just a charming and endearing love letter to the lives these great people lived, and still live. From seeing the last remaining survivor who witnessed the awful events of Bloody Sunday, to seeing someone leave their home and grab the bus to go the shops. It is inspirational, and shines a light on the strength of the human spirit. I appreciated the laid-back style taken to the cinematography, the very personal stories they managed to capture on film, the emotional-but-light hearted feeling that was visible throughout, and most of all, seeing what this film meant to the old people and couples who came out to see it. For them and their families, it will be a film to remember for a very long time. And even for me being someone in my late Twenty-Somethings, it has plenty of moments I can remember and enjoy hearing in my head again.
This is a documentary worth keeping an eye out for, it isn’t going to change the way you think about the world, but it will still strike a chord that is close to your heart.
Thanks for reading!