SXSW Film Review: 'The Immortalists'

Meet two of our generation's would-be fountains of youth

Every era of history produces its own fantasies of an elixir to cure the “disease” of old age. Our generation’s would-be fountains of youth can be found on the fringes of biology, where vainglorious researchers compete for investors in their far-fetched schemes.

The Immortalists follows two such anti-aging impresarios. Their science is not particularly reputable (in the course of the film, one loses funding for his lab and the other leaves academia to start a research fiefdom with his own inheritance), but they are fun to watch. Dr. William H. Andrews, a recognizable American huckster type, is peer-reviewed as a “snake oil salesman.” Initially more likable, the bearded, beer-swilling Dr. Aubrey de Grey enjoys naked romps in the woods with his sexagenarian wife. By the end of the film, however, de Grey too seems more a product of tech-bubble hype than a genuine scientist with the humility to accept his own limitations.

Both men are gregarious, off-kilter personalities who are pleasant enough to spend two hours with, though Andrews’ desperation – and mortality – shows in the final hour. But he never gives up. As audiences left the SXSW screening, they were met by a product rep for Andrews’ herbal anti-aging pills.

The Immortalists

Documentary Competition, World Premiere
Saturday, March 15, 11am, Topfer

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