Some Kind of Heaven review – trouble in retirement paradise

·2 min read

“After my wife passed, I started nightclubbing.” The speaker is a resident of The Villages in Florida, the US’s largest retirement community, home to 130,000 wealthy boomers. The town has more than 50 golf courses and offers endless leisure opportunities, from bellydancing to karate, synchronised swimming to rowing. However, if this documentary is anything to go by, the town’s number-one hobby is dating. Director Lance Oppenheim takes a gentle approach, capturing some hilarious moments, but there’s nothing patronising or mean-spirited about his film.

You could make an entire reality TV series about The Villages. Oppenheim keeps it simple with a handful of profiles. Anne and Reggie have been married for 47 years, but since retiring Reggie has been behaving erratically, taking up t’ai chi and hardcore hallucinogenics. Footage of him in court on possession charges is priceless. “When we got married, he wasn’t so unique,” says Anne diplomatically.

Barbara from Boston is newly widowed and lonely. Then there is Dennis, an 81-year-old lothario with a leathery tan and a gold necklace. Dennis is not technically a Villages resident – he’s broke and lives in a camper van while trying to hook “a nice looking lady with some money”. Sidling over to a group of women by the pool, he looks like a jaunty, suntanned lizard. Sensibly, most of them give him a wide berth. Dennis used to be a showbiz handyman. “I did some work for President Ford,” he says to a woman who rolls her eyes. Give George Clooney 20 years and you could imagine him playing Dennis.

One resident says that the American dream is a happy retirement. Anne is more circumspect. “We live in a bubble. It’s not the real world.” But the documentary was filmed before the pandemic, and in the past year there have been news reports of coronavirus test and vaccine shortages in The Villages. Also in 2020, Donald Trump tweeted a video that went viral of a resident shouting “white power”. The real world has arrived in The Villages. A sequel please.

• Some Kind of Heaven is released on 14 May on digital platforms.

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