Some Kind of Heaven (CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures)

Starring: The Residents of The Villages

Director: Lance Oppenheim

Running Time: 83 Minutes

Rating: Unrated (I’d peg it as PG, or maybe a soft PG-13)

Release Date: January 15, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

In the beginning of Some Kind of Heaven, one of the residents of The Villages remarks that living in a retirement home is more than a little bit reminiscent of college life. And it’s true. For those who like to spend their golden years this way and are fortunate enough to afford it, it promises a pretty cushy arrangement in which hanging out with your friends requires little more than stepping out your door. Situated in central Florida, The Villages takes the college comparison several steps further with a reputation as “Disneyland for Retirees.” Hanging out with your best buds every day is great; spending each one of those days at the most wonderful place on Earth is pretty dang expensive. With that in mind, Some Kind of Heaven focuses on a quartet of folks who are caught on the margins of The Villages.

For such a sunny setting, director Lance Oppenheim’s documentary takes a rather glum approach, as we witness some of The Villages’ most overcast days (literally and metaphorically). I’m sure that all the residents have their own set of troubles, but I’m willing to bet that we meet the ones burdened with the most upheaval. There’s Anne and her husband Reggie, who’s losing his hold on reality while turning to psychedelic drugs as he tries to insist that their relationship is strengthening. Their story is somewhere in the nexus of delusion and enlightenment. Elsewhere is Barbara, a widow surprised to find herself still working full time, bringing out the melancholy in full force. Then there’s 82-year-old Dennis, who’s not actually a resident but living in his van while he looks for a rich gal and tries to outrun his legal troubles. Some retirees really are just late-in-life adolescents, aren’t they?

I was surprised at the intimacy of Some Kind of Heaven‘s approach. Its subject struck me as more suited to an expansive overview of a unique subculture. Instead, it goes piecemeal in a way that I suspect may have been more suited to a series of half-hour episodes. Regardless of the medium and format, though, the clear-eyed and verite empathy shine through. Our stories and struggles don’t always end quite so smoothly as we may want them to, and the glitzy promises of a place like The Village tend to paper over the more complicated details.

Some Kind of Heaven is Recommended If You Like: Slice-of-life documentaries, Directorly unobtrusiveness, A dog randomly humping a cat during an interview

Grade: 3 out of 5 Retirees