Sundance 2011 Review: “The Music Never Stopped”

There is rarely a movie at Sundance I don’t like. The selection is fairly broad, but every movie teaches me something new about life. This movie was no exception.

20 years after their son runs away from home, Henry Sawyer (JK Simmons) and Helen Sawyer (Cara Seymour) receive a call that their son has been found. Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) is in the hospital in an almost comatose state. A brain tumor has destroyed many parts of his brain. The tumor is benign and removed, but leaves Gabriel without the ability to create long term memories.

Henry is completely detached from Gabriel because he feels that this is not the boy he remembers. He throws himself into work, at Polaroid, to avoid dealing with the everyday struggle that Gabriel presents. His boss calls him in and tells him that his future at Polaroid no longer exists. Henry is instructed to take the time he has and spend it with Gabriel.

A note is posted on Gabe’s cork board “Dad comes everyday at 10am”. Their relationship struggles until one night a nurse places headphones on Gabe. This causes him to get up and play the trumpet. Henry begins to research music therapy and discovers Dianne Daley. (Julia Ormond) She offers some hope that music will trigger something and help rehabilitate Gabe.

Dianne begins to work with Gabriel extensively and discovers that music from The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, and many other 1960’s bands brings him to life. He recounts several memories that help Helen, and more importantly Henry, to understand their son.

Henry trades in all of his records, in mint condition, for the music his son loves. He struggles to understand the appeal, but knowing his son is what is important now. The conversations between Henry and Gabriel begin to heal their broken relationship, and reveals that Gabe wishes he could have seen The Grateful Dead play. This pushes Henry to win tickets to a Grateful Dead concert on the radio.

Dianne’s work with Gabe progresses and he begins to associate things with beats of a tambourine. Henry hopes this will help him create new long term memories, but Dianne says that his memories are connected to songs he already loves. Henry feels that if Gabe could learn to love a new song maybe it would create the miracle he’s hoping for.

One night Henry suffers from a heart attack and is sent to the hospital. He doesn’t show up for his usual 10am appointment with Gabe. While in the hospital Henry calls the radio and wins the concert tickets.

Gabriel comes home for Christmas dinner and is reunited with his old girlfriend. This moment causes Gabe to have flashbacks of when they we’re together. Tamara (Tammy Blanchard) then reveals she is married with three kids, but Gabe doesn’t remember this for long.

As they open Christmas presents there is one gift that Henry is especially excited to give Gabriel. The tickets to The Grateful Dead concert. This excites both of them and continues the healing for them both.

At the concert Henry ends up dressing in tye-dye and a bandanna. Gabe is confused when the band comes out and Pig Pen is not on stage. Henry then tells Gabe that Pig Pen died several years ago. He doesn’t retain this information for long and asks again where Pig Pen is. Henry just smiles and listens as Gabe thinks he is sick.

The band starts up and they both sing songs like “Truckin'” and “Ripples”. Then suddenly a new song that Gabriel hasn’t heard before comes on, “Touches of Gray”. He dances to the song and loves it.After the concert they both reminisce about how much fun it was.

We then flash forward to Helen dressed in black and Gabe in a suit. He is running around his room frantically looking for something, but isn’t sure what. Henry has passed on, and missed his usual 10am appointment with Gabe.

At the funeral a boom box is brought out and “Touches of Gray” comes on. This immediately causes Gabe to cry.

As they walk away from the grave side, Gabe says to Helen, “Do you know where I first heard this song?”

Helen replies, “No, Gabe. Where?”

“The Music Never Stopped” was a story of despair, triumph, and miracles. The cast was perfect and gave performances that had the audience crying, cheering, and singing along. “The Music Never Stopped” is based on a true story and brought the entire audience to tears, myself included. Following the movie was a five-minute standing ovation for Jim Kohlberg.

JK Simmons (Juno, Spider-Man) gives an incredible performance as a father that learns to understand and love his son again.

Lou Taylor Pucci (Carriers, Horsemen) gives one of the strongest performances as Gabriel. The character is incredibly complex and you see every facet through his portrayal. In his Lou’s own words from the Q&A, “It was almost like playing two characters.”

Julia Ormond (Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Cara Seymour (An Education) give the perfect amount of support. They both are cheerleaders for Gabe and Henry and help to bring that dimension of real life.

I would have to give the movie 4/4 stars, because it brought out every emotion that I love in a movie. It allowed me to cry, laugh, and reflect on my own relationships. If you are up at Sundance, this is a movie not to be missed!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Sundance 2011 Review: “The Music Never Stopped”

  1. Cool, I’m glad to hear a suggestion from you!

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