Younger review – rousing study of female athletes excelling in their 60s and beyond

Estimated read time 3 min read

‘I like to time myself and then I know if I am improving or not,” says one of the women in this hour-long documentary about female British athletes, all aged over 60, who face off in competitions specifically for their age groups. Since each of these the sub-groups spans five years, and all those aged 60 to 65, for instance, compete against each other, it means that a competitor becomes the spry whippersnapper when she goes up to the next group, one of the benefits of getting older in sporting terms.

Mind you, all the subjects here are spry, inspiringly energetic, and articulate about what athletics means to them, which makes them the perfect subjects for an uplifting watch. In the opening minutes, they recall how, in their youth, they loved to compete or just run for the joy of it, but nearly every happy recollection darkens a bit when they get to the part about why they didn’t end up pursuing a career in sports. Sometimes, it was just that marriage and life got in the way. Sometimes, though, there were more difficult forces at play: Joylyn, for example, showed extraordinary promise as a teen and was encouraged by her teachers, but was held back by her parents who needed her to look after her younger siblings at home. Later, she speaks openly about her battles with depression and breakdowns throughout her life, but seems to harbour no obvious rancour or bitterness. She has found a space now where she can compete at the top of her game, as can the others.

Of course, it is clear that these women, like any athletes, still face physical challenges. But where younger runners and pole jumpers mostly have to contend with strained muscles and the like, the women here face cancer and strokes. Unfazed, they soldier on and support one another with a camaraderie and affection that’s well captured by co-directors Danielle Sellwood and Alex Rotas. It is not exactly groundbreaking as documentaries go, but it manages to engage and move the viewer without getting too cutesy about its elderly subjects and it never patronises them.

Younger is showing with an accompanying short, called Older, that offers an interview with Rotas, a photographer now but an athlete in her youth, her sport being tennis. Rotas discusses how she came to start photographing subjects such as those we meet in Younger out of frustration with the lack imagery of older women looking strong and vital. The two films are obviously complementary, to the point where you wonder why they weren’t spliced together to make one larger feature – but it’s easy enough to digest them in two discrete chunks.


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