Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here.

July 17, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1404578-Alive_Inside_Md.jpg
Music's power to heal is indubitably proved by Michael Rossato-Bennett's quite amazing documentary, Alive Inside. He focuses on Dan Cohen, a social worker who travels to senior-care facilities across the country, interacting with various serious cases of adult dementia. Seemingly barely alive, heads bowed, eyes closed, completely withdrawn and unresponsive, they are near human vegetables, but to them Cohen brings the gift of the iPod, in which he has collected favorite songs from their past. Within seconds of having the earphones placed on their heads, these patients come instantly to life, eyes sparkling with recognition, shoulders twitching and legs keeping time to the rhythm. What you are witnessing is indeed a miracle, the kind of stuff faith healers used to try to promote—but in these cases, it's all utterly real.

Running parallel with these wondrous revelations, however, is the darker truth about the treatment of the elderly in this country of 300 million, with the number of facilities provided for them totaling less than 20,000. There are some five million cases of adult dementia in this country, requiring twice that number to care for them. Those "lucky" enough to receive such care find themselves relegated to cold, hospital-like institutions they only yearn to escape from, forgotten by family and friends, and fed a regimen of questionable drugs which may regulate their blood pressure and mood swings, but, as the film states, do nothing for their hearts and souls.

The frustrating thing is, even though the efficacy of Cohen's musical method is demonstrated over and over, and supported by the likes of Oliver Sacks (who appears in the film), just getting the necessary inexpensive technology to those most in need of it is a problem in the face of current healthcare policies. However, Cohen is spearheading a growing movement born from the viral Internet presence begun with his footage of a 94-year-old black man who is a prime example of being literally resurrected when he hears gospel music. I can personally attest to this phenomenon by recounting the experience of my late father, who suffered from Alzheimer's for years and could barely speak or recognize anyone but came blazingly alive with a trumpet which he could still play flawlessly.

This doc is just a wonderful thing, especially for the hope it offers both the victims of an ever-burgeoning disease, as well as their hard-pressed loved ones. Warning: It's a genuinely honest tearjerker, but you will definitely fall in love with its stars. They include a bald, wizened, half-alive codger who is suddenly able to recall his glory days as a strappingly handsome young soldier and then entertainer, blasting the rec room with an impassioned "Some Enchanted Evening," as his fellow residents marvel. There's a woman who is heartbreakingly aware of the burden she places upon her devoted husband who has decided to keep her home to care for her. She is inexpressibly sad until hearing The Beach Boys' "I Get Around" has her literally jumping for joy. And then there's Denise, a Hispanic, severely diagnosed bipolar case with terrifying mood swings, who is becalmed by Schubert's "Ave Maria" and becomes a sizzling hot mama when listening to salsa and trying to dance with Cohen. "You're not Spanish," she hilariously tells this rhythm-challenged but superbly committed, truly life-changing savior of a social worker.

Click here for cast & crew information
.


Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here.

July 17, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1404578-Alive_Inside_Md.jpg

Music's power to heal is indubitably proved by Michael Rossato-Bennett's quite amazing documentary, Alive Inside. He focuses on Dan Cohen, a social worker who travels to senior-care facilities across the country, interacting with various serious cases of adult dementia. Seemingly barely alive, heads bowed, eyes closed, completely withdrawn and unresponsive, they are near human vegetables, but to them Cohen brings the gift of the iPod, in which he has collected favorite songs from their past. Within seconds of having the earphones placed on their heads, these patients come instantly to life, eyes sparkling with recognition, shoulders twitching and legs keeping time to the rhythm. What you are witnessing is indeed a miracle, the kind of stuff faith healers used to try to promote—but in these cases, it's all utterly real.

Running parallel with these wondrous revelations, however, is the darker truth about the treatment of the elderly in this country of 300 million, with the number of facilities provided for them totaling less than 20,000. There are some five million cases of adult dementia in this country, requiring twice that number to care for them. Those "lucky" enough to receive such care find themselves relegated to cold, hospital-like institutions they only yearn to escape from, forgotten by family and friends, and fed a regimen of questionable drugs which may regulate their blood pressure and mood swings, but, as the film states, do nothing for their hearts and souls.

The frustrating thing is, even though the efficacy of Cohen's musical method is demonstrated over and over, and supported by the likes of Oliver Sacks (who appears in the film), just getting the necessary inexpensive technology to those most in need of it is a problem in the face of current healthcare policies. However, Cohen is spearheading a growing movement born from the viral Internet presence begun with his footage of a 94-year-old black man who is a prime example of being literally resurrected when he hears gospel music. I can personally attest to this phenomenon by recounting the experience of my late father, who suffered from Alzheimer's for years and could barely speak or recognize anyone but came blazingly alive with a trumpet which he could still play flawlessly.

This doc is just a wonderful thing, especially for the hope it offers both the victims of an ever-burgeoning disease, as well as their hard-pressed loved ones. Warning: It's a genuinely honest tearjerker, but you will definitely fall in love with its stars. They include a bald, wizened, half-alive codger who is suddenly able to recall his glory days as a strappingly handsome young soldier and then entertainer, blasting the rec room with an impassioned "Some Enchanted Evening," as his fellow residents marvel. There's a woman who is heartbreakingly aware of the burden she places upon her devoted husband who has decided to keep her home to care for her. She is inexpressibly sad until hearing The Beach Boys' "I Get Around" has her literally jumping for joy. And then there's Denise, a Hispanic, severely diagnosed bipolar case with terrifying mood swings, who is becalmed by Schubert's "Ave Maria" and becomes a sizzling hot mama when listening to salsa and trying to dance with Cohen. "You're not Spanish," she hilariously tells this rhythm-challenged but superbly committed, truly life-changing savior of a social worker.

Click here for cast & crew information
.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here