When it comes to the end of the year, sometimes I find myself caught between trying to decide between what is the best film of the year versus what could just be my favorite. In 2010, that movie was definitely one and the same (Inception). As far as the 2011 Sundance Film Festival is concerned, right now they couldn’t be more different. While my favorite film so far is definitely My Idiot Brother, the best film I have seen happens to be the first film I saw: The Music Never Stopped (a Premiere film and the Salt Lake City Gala opening night film).
Henry and Helen Sawyer (J.K. Simmons and Cara Seymour) haven’t seen their son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) in about 20 years. One day they receive a phone call that their son has been hospitalized with a brain tumor. Doctor Biscow (Scott Adsit) informs them that the tumor has hindered Gabriel from being able to form any new memories and no one seems to be able to tell where his memory stopped. Henry brings in a music therapist, Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond), to try to pinpoint where his memory has ended and maybe find a way for Gabriel to begin forming new memories against Dr. Biscow’s insistence.
After stumbling across the Beatles “All You Need Is Love,” Gabriel immediately perks up and acts as if no years have passed; Dianne begins to think that maybe the music can help him remember. She is correct in this theory. Any time they play music from Gabriel’s past, particularly The Grateful Dead, he starts walking around the room and becomes fully engaged in conversation, even so much as remembering things that happened 20 years ago as if they were yesterday. That’s because these things were just yesterday for Gabriel. Henry and Helen eventually find out that this may be the only way they can have their son back even while Gabriel can still learn something new by making up rhymes to a beat about Celia (Mía Maestro) who works in the café.
Director Jim Kohlberg (in his feature debut), along with his cast and a spectacular screenplay from Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks broadening Oliver Sacks’ essay, “The Last Hippie,” to feature length, weave a tear jerking tale that will see a theatrical release via Roadside Attractions. Whether it will be seen at a theater near you is one thing, but be sure to check this one out as it is bound to be remembered come next year’s Oscar season. Also be sure to seek out the film’s soundtrack, it is quite a feat. If there was a category for Best Film Soundtrack to coincide with Original Score this would give most film’s a good run for their money.
You can still catch The Music Never Stopped on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Yarrow Hotel Theater in Park City.
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