Documentary filmmakers and the elderly don't always mix well. As a corollary to the "profane grandma" phenomenon, documentarians face the overwhelming temptation to make senior citizens doddering and cute – to prod us to laugh at them. The nadir of this trend might be Young@Heart, last year's minor hit about a choir of seniors who perform modern pop hits for adoring crowds, where the director spent the film's entire running time treating people fully twice his age like toddlers. It's insulting.
So I was a bit concerned about The Way We Get By, a doc about a group of senior citizens in Bangor, Maine ("where Stephen King lives") who spend their time greeting and sending off the stream of American troops who parade through Bangor Airport on their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. The greeters are constantly on call, and often end up shuffling off to the airport in the middle of the night; they shake hands and give hugs and shout teary "thank you"s and "welcome home"s. I feared the worst: "They're old and their lives are empty, but look how adorable they are!" But The Way We Get By turns out to be a lovely, uncondescending look at three lives enriched by kindness.