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TV REVIEW : 'Young at Heart': A Tender Tale of Love in the Geritol Generation

December 29, 1987|TERRY ATKINSON

There's another program on TV tonight about "love in the eighties." But this time it's 80s the age , not '80s the decade (which is the focus of ABC's "thirtysomething").

And this half-hour is inspiring, moving and amusing enough to rate at least 80 on a scale of 100.

"Young at Heart" (11 p.m., Channel 28) is an award-winning documentary about two widowed octogenarians, Reva Shwayder and Louis Gothelf, who fell in love during a group vacation to England in 1984. When producer-directors Sue Marx and Pamela Conn began to film the romance, Shwayder and Gothelf were "living together." During production, the pair decided to marry, and Marx and Conn cap the 30 minutes with portions of the ceremony.

Actually, "Young at Heart" might have been just as fine a film if Shwayder and Gothelf had just been friends--for, while the romance is touching, it's the vibrant personalities of the two subjects that make the documentary tick. These Detroiters are funny, sharp, if occasionally testy people who've avoided many of the mind-traps older people can fall into.

It certainly seems no accident that both are painters and just as interested in their art as when younger. The fact that she loves abstract art and painting flowers while he's a portrait-painting traditionalist doesn't get in the way much--it simply results in some lively but respectful arguments when the lovebirds take a stroll through an art museum, or he tries to talk her into modeling for him.

As the fast-moving half-hour progresses, we see that the wisdom and good humor of these elders shine in the deep shadow of past tragedy--Shwayder lost her husband and both of her children in the span of a few years.

In the '80s--the decade, that is--there's far too widespread an illusion that happiness and fulfillment come only with youth.

"Young at Heart" shows how these things are available in the 80s--the age--as well. And don't miss the final credits, over which we get to hear that star oldie-but-goodie (and underrated crooner) George Burns sing a charming rendition of the title song.

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