Review: ‘Never Say Die: The Pursuit of Eternal Youth’

The underlying theme of this interesting hourlong docu is that people fear change because they fear death. And so it's not surprising the lengths to which they will go to stave off the inevitable.

The underlying theme of this interesting hourlong docu is that people fear change because they fear death. And so it’s not surprising the lengths to which they will go to stave off the inevitable.

Documentarian Antony Thomas has traveled through Europe and America in search of how different people approach fears about aging.

Each year, Americans spend approximately $ 4 billion on anti-aging pills, lotions and potions, pursuing the much-idealized image of youth.

This country boasts everything from longevity centers to groups such as the Eternal Flame Foundation, believers in the notion that the human will is stronger than nature — that people can actually will themselves not to die.

Thomas interviews practitioners at the ALCOR Life Extension Foundation, which houses people’s bodies, or sometimes just their heads, in frozen suspension. At $ 35,000 per head, or $ 140,000 per body, people are frozen shortly after death in the hopes that future generations will be able to clone their bodies and reanimate their brains.

The docu follows the experiences of a 48-year-old woman who opts for a facelift a year after her divorce, interviewing her before the surgery, during it — which is tough watching — and then afterward.

While documentarian Thomas takes a straightforward examination of the multitude of ways people are trying to stay young and alive — from surgery to vitamins to dieting to DNA genetic research — the special ultimately offers a poignant insight into a very basic fear.

Docu also addresses the issues that could face future generations should lives be drastically extended through scientific intervention. Overcrowding of the planet and the alteration of the natural cycle, for example, are discussed.

Not surprisingly, Europeans and Americans tend to look at aging somewhat differently, according to Thomas’ research.

While Europeans also pursue remedies for better health over a longer period of their lives, they also tend to integrate the elderly into their everyday lives. Americans, on the other hand, often shuttle the very old to convalescent homes.

Thomas never loses sight of the irony in all of these prescribed cures for old age, which gives the special a well-rounded perspective. It is simply fascinating viewing.

Never Say Die: The Pursuit of Eternal Youth

(Mon. (17), 9:30-10:30 p.m., HBO)

Production

A Home Box Office production. Produced, directed, written and narrated by Antony Thomas.
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