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How to Live Forever

New Video Group DVD and digital

Documentarian Mark Wexler wants to live forever, to break through the biological chains that bind him and just keep on ticking. The problem is, he has no idea how, and it turns out that mankind (a notoriously life-extending/life-producing species) hasn’t quite figured it out either. In How to Live Forever, an exploration of humanity’s obsession with youth, the end result is a buffet of techniques and philosophies that never stops long enough to fully examine much of anything. The film is thorough to say the least, though, zipping all over the world to chat with medical authorities, celebrities, and average Joes who just happened to break the 100-year barrier. One expert who weighs in is the beloved sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury (who, it turns out, died the same day the film was released on DVD).

The film opens with Wexler, after the death of his mother, coming to terms with his own mortality and embarking on a voyage to keep it at bay. He stands at the center of the film, guiding it with his own narration and personal story. The problem is, his role often slows down everything else, and his own perspective does little to enrich the work. It could be that, unlike other filmmaker-driven docs like Sherman’s March or Roger and Me, How to Live Forever simply doesn’t need a central character. The issues he wrestles with (like the loss of loved ones, going bald, and the slow decline of one’s health) are fairly universal, and his point of view doesn’t offer any illuminating insights. Rather, it takes precious time away from the more fascinating characters he comes across, like the 101-year-old marathon runner who doesn’t drink water (just beer for him, thanks) or the 92-year-old Japanese fisherman who dives after his prey head-first. And let’s not forget about the cocktail of hormones Suzanne Somers takes; she rattles off the list in passing, leaving you begging for a doctor to weigh in on the ramifications. But instead, Wexler moves on to another topic, more figures who swear their approaches to attaining longevity are best.

While it’s certainly unsatisfying, How to Live Forever does offer a good dose of intriguing ideas, entertaining personalities, and compelling stories from people all over the world. If only it knew just when to land and when to take flight.

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