“Staying here is just about all you can do”
It was always the stereotypical retirement locale—Florida beckoning with open arms. Great weather, a new community of age-appropriate friends, and a simpler life away from the harsh cold of northern winters awaited everyone who migrated down. Some had to move due to doctor’s orders, others wanted to let their children have their own lives. To move south was to be reborn as a newly single soul on the prowl or as a couple transitioning into their so-called “golden years”. But like all good things, an end must still come. This time, however, your next step takes you to the afterlife.
Kings Point is a short documentary directed by a filmmaker who dedicated the work to her own family member Ira whom I’m sure she visited often. Sari Gilman takes us inside the retirement community to find out exactly how the elderly transplants live so far from the lives they once led. We meet Gert enjoying her solitude with Mahjong chums; Frank and his need for companionship whether knowing the person he’s with is the ‘one’ for him or not; Bea and Jane welcoming the opportunity to drape themselves on his arms for different reasons and with different forms of love; and Mollie’s matter-of-fact honesty in cutting through facades and realizing staying home may have been a better choice.
Equal parts funny and heartbreaking, we watch as a cutthroat lifestyle consumes these otherwise congenial folks and turns them into creatures hell-bent on self-preservation. No one visits their friends in the hospital because they don’t want to join them there. No one wants to see their ‘friend’ talking to another man or woman because they think their relationship is monogamous even though it’s not. No one gets close anymore because time is no longer on his/her side. Life becomes a series of acquaintances you use to satisfy your needs just as they do you for theirs. As the once thriving community becomes sparse and singles-oriented, it truly is survival of the fittest.
Spanning a few years—there is one fast-forward of two years in the middle as well as an epilogue talking about how some passed on three years before the completion of the film—Kings Point is a stunningly candid depiction of a people we’re soon to join. Some take old age as a chance to start fresh and enjoy what life they have left as others use it as an excuse to give up and settle. What was once a paradise to these kind-hearted souls has become a graveyard and while most have already buried a loved one, very few want to have to do so again.