In The Music Never Stopped, directed by Jim Kohlberg, 30-something Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) returns home in the 1980s, barely able to grasp his own identity, let alone that of his parents (J.K. Simmons, Cara Seymour).
Having left home in the late 1960s, guitar in hand, following some Vietnam-linked flag burning and a generational run in with his father’s ideals, he now finds himself in a hospital bed, around which doctors explain that a benign brain tumour has robbed him of the capacity to form new memories – which also (think about it) renders him incapable of living a meaningful life in the present.
Gabriel himself appears indifferent to his condition until his mother notices his reaction to the music of his youth. With some help from a music therapist (Julia Ormond) and mutual friends such as The Grateful Dead, memories are gradually unlocked and analysed: via flashback. The problem remains, of course, that arrested in a state of former antagonism, father and son face a struggle as they try to reconnect in the present.
Memories can sweeten our days or make life a misery – and generally give meaning to the run of existence. The theme is a staple of great world literature (Proust, Sebald), and films such as In The Music Never Stopped show that cinema also disposes of tools that both create narrative context and comment on it, formatting the present and the past in ways that give memory, and memories, the status they deserve as arbiters of contentment.
The Music Never Stopped | Directed by Jim Kohlberg (USA 2012), with J.K. Simmons, Julia Ormond, Lou Taylor Pucci. Starts March 29