Sunset Story

The only lucid residents at a retirement home, best friends Irja and Lucille experience later life with vitality, dignity, humor, and purpose.

Sunset story 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
March 22, 2005
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 Los Angeles Film Festival-Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 Tribeca Film Festival-Special Jury Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 France Film Festival, Agen-Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 Miami International Film Festival-Grand Jury Special Citation for Best Documentary
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    The Film

    Deep in the heart of central Los Angeles lies an unusual retirement home. Founded in 1923, Sunset Hall caters to the “free-thinking elderly,” integrating aging with progressive activism and giving its residents the opportunity to engage with the causes they hold dear. Sunset Story delves inside the world of two of Sunset Hall’s most lucid residents, 81-year-old Irja Lloyd and 95-year-old Lucille Alpert, whose feisty engagement with life draws them together.

    Like many of their fellow residents, Irja and Lucille wrestle daily with the obstacles of aging. However, their friendship, in their words, has “saved both of our lives.” After moving into Sunset Hall within weeks of one another, they soon form an unbreakable bond — socially, intellectually, and physically. In order to be assured of stimulating conversation and emotional sanity, the two sit together at every meal and every meeting.

    Sunset Story follows Irja and Lucille for a period of several months as they venture out for manicures, political protests and meals at their favorite deli. Meanwhile, at Sunset Hall, they are among the few who speak up during political discussions and the only ones alert enough to care about the appalling menu offerings. When Lucille receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, Irja must confront the possibility of losing her lifeline.

    Sharp-witted, up-to-date, and often provocative, Irja and Lucille are unafraid to share their opinions on men, sex, gender roles, and social attitudes toward the elderly. In a culture in which the elderly are often isolated and discarded as “unpleasant” reminders of the aging process, Sunset Story explodes familiar stereotypes, portraying two friends’ search for meaning and connection with unexpected emotion.