‘The Music Never Stopped’ gives the healing power of rock music its due

Music has charms to calm the savage breast. All kinds of music . . . even rock ‘n’ roll.

Especially rock ‘n’ roll. In the four-hankie "The Music Never Stopped," a father reconnects with his brain-damaged son by acceptance another generation’s music.

Jim Kohlberg’s straighting debut is based on a real-life case study travel around by neurologist Oliver Sacks in the essay "The Last Hippie." It’s an audience-friendly drama about family, disagreement and the curative power of music.

Set in the mid-1980s in upstate New York, the film centers on Henry and Helen Sawyer (J.K. Simmons, Cara Seymour), who learn that their long-estranged son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) has been found living on the streets.

Now 35, Gabriel has a brain tumor. It’s removed, but so is his ability to produce new memories. Sometimes he talks in old advertising slogans; often he’s catatonic.

The one thing he reacts to is music. Henry engages a therapist (Julia Ormond), who discovers that the patient comes alive when pay attention to tunes popular before the tumor began its ugly work. True, he thinks it’s still 1969, but he can recall tiny details, make jokes and talk continually and enthusiastically about his favorite songs.

The problem is that Henry, who loves the big-band sound, illogically blames rock music for his son’s estrangement. The only way they can truly converse is for Henry to immerse himself in "that damn music" of the ’60s. More specifically, the Grateful Dead.

"Music" isn’t always the most elegant film writers Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks sometimes falter when balancing the film’s present with the many flashbacks but it has a huge heart and great acting.

Simmons, perennially one of the best behind actors in American film and TV, gets a rare leading role and deftly negotiates the divide between Henry’s parental love and his almost ridiculous hatred of rock.

Watching this film, a boomer experiences the same alteration as Gabriel. Certain songs right away take us back to when we first heard them.

Once it’s lodged in your brain, a good song isn’t going wherever. It’s there for the duration.

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