Music Knows No Age
By Skip Sheffield
It’s never too late to rock ‘n’ roll. If you don’t believe me, look at me. Better yet look at the Belgian film “The Over the Hill Band,” which opens this Friday at Shadowood Theatres.
“Over the Hill” is in Flemish and French, with English subtitles, but it has subject matter American audiences- particularly older people- can easily understand.
Claire (Marilou Mermans) is a woman facing her 70th birthday when her husband suffers a heart attack at the wheel of their car. Not only is Claire injured in the ensuing crash, she is rendered an instant widow.
Mermans is a woman with a beautiful face who has been a Flemish movie star since age 20. Still, her character looks in the mirror and wonders, “Who’s the old bat looking back at me?”
At the funeral Claire is reunited with her two sons. Michel (Lucas van den Eynde) is the “good son,” always there for his mother, and offering advice even when it is not sought.
Alexander (Jan van Loovern), who insists on being called Sid, has moved to Brussels and hasn’t seen his mother in five years. Sid is a would-be hip hop musician who has yet to score any kind of success.
The sons quibble over their father’s valuable wine collection and part uneasily. While going through her husband’s effects, Claire discovers the old guitar she gave Sid when he was a young man. The guitar brings back memories of her own musical career as one of three singers in a group called The Sisters of Love.
Inspired, Claire decides to revisit her old friends. Magda (Lea Couzin) lives in the shadow of her husband. Lutgard (Lut Tomsin) has remained in music, but she is a spinster church choir director. When Claire suggests the women re-form the Sisters of Love they are skeptical. They are even more incredulous when Claire invites Sid to join the group.
Sid agrees reluctantly on one condition: they must play his style of modern music, and learn some dance moves. Sid goes one step further and insists the group be re-christened as the band of the title.
“Under the skin I’m still 17,” reasons Claire.
Like many an American musical film, the story culminates with a battle-of-the-bands, with the group as a very unlikely top contender. Unlike an American film, the battle outcome is not so predictable.
Director Geoffrey Enthoven and writer-producer Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem have created a film that is funny and entertaining and also touching, pertinent to our aging population, and even romantic, thanks to a side plot involving a “ladies man” (Michel Israel) in the band.