“The Music Never Stopped”
Offers Brain Candy
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Have you ever read that mind-blowing book by Columbia University neurologist Oliver Sacks, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales”? It’s a fascinating collection of case histories involving brain disorders.
Another of his books was adapted into a film called “Awakenings,” starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. It was about patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica.
Now we get “The Music Never Stopped,” a father-son drama based on Sacks’ essay “The Last Hippie” from his book “An Anthropologist on Mars.” It gives us the story of Henry Sawyer and his son Gabriel, a kid who suffers from a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. Anterograde amnesia, it’s called. Unable to deal with their strained relationship through normal communications, Henry Sawyer turns to music as a means of reaching his son.
In “The Music Never Stopped” –now playing at the Tropic Cinema – that underappreciated actor J. K. Simmons (“Juno,” TV’s “The Closer”) takes the role of the father. Lou Taylor Pucci (“Thumbsucker,” TV’s “Empire Falls” miniseries) plays the damaged boy who floats in and out of four different states of consciousness.. Cara Seymour (Adaptation,” “The Gangs of New York”) is the mother. We also have Mía Maestro (TV’s “Alias”) and Julia Ormond (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Che”) to round out the cast.
Directed by first-timer Jim Kohlberg, “The Music Never Stopped” offers the three most important things he looks for in a film: “Story, story, and story.”
Kohlberg says, “A friend of mine sent the script to me. I read it and immediately fell in love with it for several reasons. First, I’d actually been kind of a brain science reader and read Oliver Sacks’ books and Proust as a neuroscientist and a bunch of the books by Nobel winners because it’s fascinating to me. So this film was about that, plus it had this wonderful story about fathers and sons and a family that had been pulled apart by music and then brought together by music.”
Needless to say, a movie about using music to reach a person with a brain tumor has to have a great soundtrack. And it does: Dylan, The Grateful Dead, “this amazing soundtrack that I never thought I’d get, not in a million years,” as Kohlberg describes it.
From time to time Oliver Sacks has taken some criticism for his books. One noted researcher said, “He’s a much better writer than he is a clinician.” And his studies have been called “a high-brow freak show.”
However, I’ve always found Sacks’ books to serve a valuable purpose by putting a very human face on gobbledygook medical terms. Whether explaining such neurological phenomenon as visual agnosia, cerebral achromatopsia, Tourette Syndrome, or Lytico-Bodig disease, I prefer to call these stories brain candy.
[from Solares Hill]