Neil Young: Heart of Gold

Rated 4.0

Last August, Neil Young assembled some kindred-spirit musicians and filmmaker Jonathan Demme in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry, to perform the music he wrote after losing his father and being diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain aneurysm. Neil Young: Heart of Gold is what Demme took away from those two evenings: an attentive, soberly tender concert film. Certainly it is music of muted grief, mixing Young’s expressions of gratitude and lament for friends and family with reckonings of his own aging and mortality. But the beauty of the movie is in how alive it all sounds: rich and rueful and satisfying. It almost seems like a planned response to the ubiquity of concert films—a genre in which Demme, who also directed Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, has been influential. Here, quite clearly following Young’s plainspoken example, he opts out of fanciness and simply trusts the material. The unaffectedness is as fresh as heartland wheat fields.