‘Some Kind of Heaven’ Review: A Peek Behind the Façade of a ‘Heaven on Earth’

With the way 2020 went down and looking at how has 2021 started, we’d all love to escape from reality and live in a type of Shangri-la where all the world’s problems disappear, and we can live whatever life we’ve imagined. This is the premise behind The Villages, America’s largest retirement community down in Central Florida, and Lance Oppenheim’s feature directorial debut. But what Some Kind of Heaven shows us is that there is much more lurking behind the palm trees, blue skies, and multitudes of smiling faces — your problems don’t just magically disappear.

The documentary opens up with various residents espousing the virtues of living in this Nirvana here on Earth. Being described as a place where “you come to live, not die” and “everything here is so positive,’ we’re shown images of groups of 50+ spry individuals living their best lives doing synchronized swimming, golfing, partaking in music and theatre classes and dancing until their heart’s content. But as you watch, you get the eerie feeling that something darker and a little less positive is lurking right beneath the surface — maybe this isn’t “adult Disneyland” after all. And Oppenheimer and his crew do an effective job of showing us that through the stories of three residents and one interloper.

First up is a lonely widower Barbara who has had to work full-time for The Village since running through her savings and losing her husband to cancer years earlier. Barbara is looking for love again and happiness and fulfillment in the one place that seems to have it in abundance, but she quickly learns that the journey is much harder than advertised. Then there’s Reggie and Anne, a couple who have been married for 47 years.

They seem like total opposites initially, with wholesome Anne staying super active and trying her best to be the rational, solid support for her husband Reggie, who since coming to The Villages has turned to enlightenment, eastern religions, and drugs to find his purpose. Will the couple stay together, or will the “freedom” of the community continue to lessen Reggies’ grip on reality and test the strength of their bond.

Lastly, the film’s overarching theme of chasing happiness and finding purpose is exposed through Dennis Dean’s story, a former handyman to the stars and current ladies’ man, who is currently living out of a van trying to get his hands on a piece of the promised land. While he’s on the prowl for single, wealthy women, we see just how far one would go to live The Villages’ lifestyle. What is supposed to be a “new awakening” turns out not to be the fantasy land promised for everyone. The Villages residents live in a bubble (and not a very diverse one), not the real world, and while it may seem that life is perfect here, you cannot escape or run from your problems, they will always catch up with you.

Some Kind of Heaven does an effective job of laying the foundation of what The Villages was meant to be for retirees through telling the story of its founding in the 1980s and growth from 800 to about 130,000 residents. But then Oppenheim pierces the shimmering sheen and facade with interesting stories about marriage, relationships, and self-fulfillment. What was supposed to be the happy times of their golden years turns out to be kind of hard to watch as the film’s subjects are actually living much sadder lives. The film makes for an interesting watch as it gives us a much different story than that of retirees who languish in nursing homes — the polar opposites.

Deep down, the film’s theme is universal as we all long for and strive for a sense of happiness, purpose, and love, no matter the age. It’s a story we can all relate to. But maybe this film shows how happiness and purpose can’t be manufactured, nor does it come from outside sources — those are just temporary fixes — the source must come from within.

Some Kind of Heaven Will Be Available On VOD January 15, 2021

Written by
LV Taylor is an entertainment attorney, freelance writer and film lover. With previous experience in the music, fashion publishing and sports worlds, LV works with all types of creators and creatives helping to build and protect their brands and artistic visions. It is through this work that LV cultivates her love for film and writing. Her love for film was ignited in middle school as a drama student when she first discovered Turner Classic Movies and fell in love with classic Hollywood. LV is also a budding producer having produced a short film with more in the pipeline. She believes in the power of a beautiful or engaging story that allows one to see the world from a different point of view and speak a common language. LV shares her passion for film and good storytelling through her writing and reviews for sites such as AwardsCircuit.com and Musings of a Streaming Junkie.

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