Synopsis: Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.
Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett
Running Length: 78 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: It would be highly advised to have a box of tissues handy when taking in this moving documentary.
Looking into how the power of music can open doors to people locked away in their minds as they battle Alzheimer’s disease, Alive Inside maybe would have been better as a short subject feature because it tends to stall out when it moves beyond the people and into issues related to the system behind nursing homes and elder care in the US.
Thankfully, the film is short enough so that the tangents are few and we have more time to spend with the people director Michael Rossato-Bennett captures over three years as he follows Dan Cohen into nursing homes with his Music & Memory program. Using the music from iPods, Cohen finds out about the time these patients grew up and selects music that would speak to them in some way. Soon, audiences literally see people wake up to the world and the effect is the stuff of goosebumps and watery eyes.
Rossato-Bennett’s look into the creation of elder care and where our country is headed in terms of ages across generations provides some nice backgrounds, but the introduction of politics into the discussion seems a little gratuitous and out of alignment with the revelatory awakenings that give strength to the rest of the film. Pushed too far, the success stories can start to feel like supporting documentation for an agenda rather than inspiration for others to act in their own community.
Still, that may be reading too far into the situation and for the most part Alive Inside stirs the kind of emotions within that ring true and go deep. If you are headed to the theater to see this, check and see if they are participating in the iPod recycling program. It’s something you can do for your community that will benefit Cohen’s Music & Memory organization.