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The Independent Critic

Oliver Sacks, Dan Cohen, Bill Thomas, Bobby McFerrin
Michael Rossato-Bennett
78 Mins.
Projector Media, City Drive Entertainment Group
Ask Dan Cohen; Michael Rossato-Bennett Interview; Deleted Scenes; Alive Inside Soundtrack, Director's Commentary; Theatrical Trailer

 "Alive Inside" A Doc You Will Remember  
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In Alive Inside, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized and awakened by the simple act of listening to the music of their youth. Appropriately described as a "joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to re-awaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity," Alive Inside is a hopeful and inspiring film that dares to look inside the lives of those who've in some ways seemingly lost their souls because it has such complete and utter faith that music can re-awaken it.

Have you ever seen one of those viral videos in a nursing home or some other clinic where you see an elder adult slumped over in a wheelchair seemingly lost to the world until someone places headphones over their ears or somehow otherwise plays music from their era?

They come to life. They recognize it. They respond to it. They remember it. It's a beautiful, often tearjerking scene to behold.

It is these types of scenes that unfold in Alive Inside - scenes like that belonging to Marylou, whose Alzheimer's Disease has rendered her needing constant guidance, protection, help, and care. Her husband, Doug, is still  by her side and still of the belief that we simply don't understand where her mind really is but it is there. Alive Inside doesn't shy away from the difficulty and from the tragedy - that there are people living in nursing homes across the country who are simply warehoused and given no chance at remembering and re-igniting and uncovering the deepest parts of their humanity. Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory, believes that chance comes not through medication but through music. Followed for three years as part of the filming for Alive Inside, Cohen believes, and has seen many times, that music helps people recover their memories and their pasts. For Marylou, it came at least partially through Beach Boys music. The point is, it came.

It's a point that Alive Inside makes again and again. Oliver Sacks explains "Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus," while Bill Thomas spearheads the anti-institutional argument that has a loud voice here by saying "Bill Thomas asserts, “What we’re spending on drugs that mostly don’t work dwarfs what it would take to deliver personal music to every nursing home resident." The anti-nursing home argument isn't a new argument, but seldom has it been given such an eloquent and poetic voice.

The film ends on a much more emotionally impactful note offering poignant visuals of viewers watching images from the film on YouTube, viewers who seem to "get it," the power of music, and who might be one of the people who can reverse the trend of ignoring something that can clearly help so many people. It's called simply showing up, sharing music, and taking the journey with another human being.

It seems simple. It really does and if there's a central question underlying everything that unfolds in Alive Inside it's "If it's so simple, why aren't we doing it?"

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic