I’m not sure what I expected. After all, how many films are billed this way:

The subjects of Before You Know It are no ordinary senior citizens. They are go-go booted bar-hoppers, love struck activists, troublemaking baton twirlers, late night Internet cruisers, seasoned renegades and bold adventurers. They are also among the estimated 2.4 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans over the age of 55 in the United States, many of whom face heightened levels of discrimination, neglect and exclusion.

What I wasn’t prepared for is just how engaging the film is on a personal level. The authenticity of the interviews and observational sequences left me with a deep appreciation for the stories director PJ Raval shares and the three men (and their friends) who have lived them.

Dennis is a lonely widower in his late 70s who is trying to break free from his past in Florida and find meaning for his remaining years in Oregon where Dennis and his female counterpart Dee can openly coexist. His journey provides the most poignant scenes in the film for me.

Robert is a bar owner who lives a completely different lifestyle from Dennis, a daily existence filled with people and music and various festivities within a nurturing community. Robert has a wide embrace ready for everything life has to offer.

Ty is an LGBT activist who thinks about little but marriage after laws allowing it are passed in New York. He is the only one of the featured characters involved in a long-term relationship at the time of film.

The range of emotional tones of the film is broad, but that would be true, I believe about any film about aging. Overall, I find the stories these men tell affirming as markers of the progress we have made socially and of our collective humanity.

You have a chance to catch the documentary Before You Know It Saturday, October 12, at 7 p.m. at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Check for more information.

Before You Know It


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