Moving cinema without the schmaltz
This film is both sentimental and moving. It is like a satisfying meal; it isn’t too heavy and leaves you feeling content afterwards. It is based on a true story by the neurologist-turned-author Oliver Sacks entitled The Last Hippie. (Incidentally, this was one of my least favourite stories featured in An Anthropologist on Mars, the original book of essays. However, the film adapted the story very well.)
The story is about a man, Gabriel (Pucci), who develops a brain tumor and is reunited with his parents after 20 years. Gabriel suffers from intense amnesia after undergoing surgery on the tumour. The year is 1986, but for Gabriel it is still the late ‘60s. His father, Henry (Simmons), helps to take care of Gabriel. In an effort to cure his son, Henry finds a music therapist and through music they are able to bring forth a more lucid Gabriel. Nevertheless, because Gabriel cannot remember beyond 1970, Henry has to come to terms with the son who left so many years earlier.
The acting in the film is incredibly strong. Antonia Dauphin, who did the casting for this film, should be patting herself on the back. Simmons is gruff and grumpy, yet sweet and kind as the father. He is easily the star of this film. Pucci is also great as Gabriel, which isn’t the easiest part to play.
Though the direction the story was heading in is not entirely surprising, it isn’t entirely predictable either, which is refreshing. The film has some fantastic awkwardly real moments and the dialogue is perfect. The father-son relationship is revealed in flashbacks, each scene building on the next but not in an obvious progression.
The film also does a good job of assigning meaning to objects, which works wonderfully as it’s about how we assign meaning to songs. It is about how music touches us, how music goes somewhere deeper than words and just digs into you. And we all know the feeling of hearing a song and being transported somewhere else. As described in The New York Post, this is “an unpretentious and unexpectedly moving” film.
The Music Never Stopped
Dir: Jim Kohlberg; US drama, 105 mins; J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Julia Ormand
Premiered January 19, playing nationwide