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Movie Review: Some Kind of Heaven: Is More More or Is Less More?

Category: Active adult communities

By Larry Gavrich

January 29, 2021 — With 3,000 social clubs, more than 30 golf clubs, 89 swimming pools and dozens of taverns, The Villages in north central Florida does not seem like the kind of place where any residents could be depressed or bored.  But, according to a new documentary film called Some Kind of Heaven, there may be a thin line between heaven and hell in the famous – some might say “infamous” — community. 

The movie focuses on three subjects, two single people and a married couple, all four dealing with different personal demons.  An 80-something male is the instrument of his own misery, a “vagrant” living out of his van and hanging out at the community pools hoping to find a lady who will take him home and tend to his goal of a life of leisure – all expenses paid.  You likely won’t feel much sympathy for his plight; he is both cunning and conning.

A second case of a recently widowed lady engenders more pathos.  She admits she missed her chance to return to her native Massachusetts and family shortly after her husband died.  Now she can’t afford the move back.  I felt for her as she sought companionship in a community with plenty to offer but not the kind of offers she needs.  She is the feature of the movie’s final scene, and it is heartbreaking.


The most difficult situation is faced by the couple – the wife, actually – in trying to reconcile the husband’s drug habit and mental deterioration.  He is maddeningly weird; his wife, an otherwise savvy and articulate lady, is maddeningly tolerant of his excesses, which include a bizarre appearance before a judge who loses his patience with the offender.  Her desire to save her 47-year-long marriage is noble, but she appears to be throwing good intentions at a hopelessly bad situation.

The Villages is the context for these four depressing stories, and although the filmmakers are generally even-handed in their description of the community itself – there is no narrator, the residents do all the talking – they can’t help taking a poke here and there.  (For example, a dozen members of one exclusive club introduce themselves with, “Hi, I’m Elaine.” Like the wandering souls of The Cheers Bar, they choose “to go where everybody knows [their] name.” I found myself wondering what they discuss at meetings.)

The Villages suits some people and not others.  Some love it for the diversity of golf, a mind-numbing roster of clubs and activities, its 24 x 7 party atmosphere, reasonably priced real estate and the fact no one has to work too hard to find friends.  Others will curdle at all those options and think much less is more.

*Some Kind of Heaven is available to rent on Amazon Prime and VOD (Video On Demand) through your cable company.

Larry Gavrich is the author of Glorious Back Nine as well as a consultant for individuals and couples considering living in a golfing community.

Posted by Admin on January 29th, 2021

10 Comments »

  1. This was an interesting documentary.

    by Debra — January 30, 2021

  2. Thanks for the interesting review Larry. I just watched the movie because I am always interested in what life is like at The Villages, which is an amazing place. It is kind of hard to figure out what the Director was trying to accomplish with the movie. It is only representative of a super small slice of TV, because it only profiles 4 unhappy people who live there. Surely there are some happy folks in this giant community. The stories of the unhappy single people and the couple do show various sides of depression, despair, loneliness, and exasperation in a realistic way. Apparently, even in The VIllages not everybody can be happy. You will get an idea of what life is like there from the movie. But the result is extremely depressing, nobody is living happily ever after.

    by Rick — January 31, 2021

  3. Thanks, Rick. One of the lingering questions for me after watching the movie was “What do the filmmakers think about The Villages?” At times I thought they were making fun of it (e.g. the club comprising only people named Elaine) and at other times showing happy residents praising the life there. All in all, though, by featuring people in crisis, some of their own making and some not their faults, the filmmakers are saying something like “only the strong and unaffected survive at The Villages.” Or something like that. Well done, provocative movies keep you thinking about them for weeks, and I am still considering the implications of Some Kind of Heaven.

    by Larry — February 1, 2021

  4. I read Leisureville back in 2014 and would love an update, very entertaining and eye-opening. Would also enjoy videos/films about how living in The Villages (or any other retirement community) has changed someone’s life for the better. Not an infomercial with two old people holding hands talking about how they can be as busy as they want, but real substantive life-saving loneliness relief, invigorating a sense of purpose and community. I’m sure these inspiring stories are out there.

    by Daryl — February 1, 2021

  5. Just watched this last night and fast forwarded several times because it was so boring. Why would they profile a guy living in a van looking for rich women? I have a friend living in the Villages. An upbeat, happy, woman who enjoys taking part in the activities. The movie didn’t depict that lifestyle at all. A waste of $6.99!

    by Silvana Clark — February 1, 2021

  6. I have recently discovered that YouTube has some interesting channels created by people who live in The Villages. They discuss various aspects of the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course everything is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s heaven can be another person’s hell and vice versa. I have enjoyed a channel called The Villages Florida Newcomers (absolutely no affiliation with them). It gives a more realistic view as they experience their journey, with the pluses and minuses, but again it is completely subjective. It is even possible to reach out to YouTubers and ask questions. They might answer you directly or it might become a topic of discussion. Bottom line, I learned that it is not all rainbows and unicorns as depicted on the official infomercial, but then again, nowhere ever is.

    by Shauna — February 2, 2021

  7. Shauna: That’s very good advice. When I was researching, I looked online for neighborhood sites, chats and local newspapers. I found multiple Villages newsletters and websites, and was able to read about problems caused by abandoned houses (from illness/death, snowbirds that don’t return, rentals and more), adult kids who live with their retired parents (some are addicts, criminals etc.), sinkholes in the Villages and other issues that hadn’t occurred to me. I read breaking news about criminals who were preying on their community, etc. I also got to read about local businesses, politics and activities. Of course, these problems occur anywhere but it was still very helpful when researching possible retirement destinations. Picking a new retirement destination is not just about weather and the cost-of-living!!!!

    by Kate — February 3, 2021

  8. Kate: Also very good advice. We are very fortunate to live in a day and age when we have such a wealth of information at the click of a button to help us with our due diligence. I too was surprised at the amount of things that one has to keep an eye on (and be insured for) in Florida. Things that didn’t even occur to me as I live here in Oregon and don’t have to deal with (sink holes, hurricanes, alligators, heat and humidity, termites). That being said, Oregon has its own issues, just different ones.

    by Shauna — February 3, 2021

  9. This must be the season for retirement movies. Nomadland, a popular book we wrote about a few years ago, is now a movie. In fact it took first prize at the Venice Film Festival, is nominated for a Golden Globe for best drama, and is expected to be an Oscar nominee. It stars Frances McDormand, whom we love. It will appear on IMAZ and starting Feb 19 on Hulu. Three of the people in the film are real nomads. See https://www.topretirements.com/blog/work-and-volunteering/working-in-retirement-the-new-reality.html/ for more on the book, which profiles boomers who take to the road in retirement.

    by Admin — February 3, 2021

  10. Watched a movie on Prime about Sun City AZ called “Very Senior—Attitude is Everything” that was advertised as “upbeat and hopeful.” Once again they seem to emphasize the silly and sad. Maybe happiness and contentment are quiet emotions that aren’t portrayed well in films. I enjoy the little things in life so much more now than ever before, but admiring a sunset or snuggling a grandchild are hardly must-see-TV.

    by Daryl — February 4, 2021

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