Review: Voices evoke 100 years of the Emerald Isle in ‘Older Than Ireland’


Filmmaker Alex Fegan may not unearth why the Emerald Isle is home to so many spirited centenarians, but their presence makes for a lovely and inspiring experience in the enjoyable documentary “Older Than Ireland.”

Fegan interviews 30 Irish folks 100 years of age or older (the eldest, at 113, was born in Ireland but has long lived in Syracuse, N.Y.) about the secret to their longevity (there basically is none), their youth, first loves, children, technological advances, spouses’ deaths, personal regrets and much more, mostly told in chronological fashion. Although some super-seniors here are more lively and articulate — and mobile — than others, en masse they offer a plethora of essential thoughts, charming recollections and quotable quotes.

Among the most memorable cast members: forthright and stylish Bessie Nolan, 103, who cuts her own hair and unapologetically smokes cigarettes; Jack Powell, 101, who still loves to drive; Mary Kilroy, 101, who amusingly grapples with the idea of gay marriage; and John Mitchell, 101, who still cooks, shops and keeps up his modest home.


Although our subjects offer snippets of Irish history that help paint a picture of their homeland’s earlier days, the film could have used more social, cultural and geographical context. Still, this is such a moving, evocative and rare assemblage of souls, we’re grateful for its existence.


‘Older Than Ireland’

In English with English subtitles due to the heavy Irish accents

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica