Tale of a father who struggles to bond with his estranged son Gabriel, after Gabriel suffers from a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. With Gabriel unable to shed the beliefs and interests that caused their physical and emotional distance, Henry must learn to embrace his son’s choices and try to connect with him through music.


It’s 1986, and father Henry (J.K. Simmons) and mother Helen (Cara Seymour) Sawyer have just discovered that their long-estranged son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) is in a hospital, diagnosed with a large brain tumor. The tumor is operable and benign, but the doctor tells the stricken parents that Gabriel – whom they haven’t seen in about twenty years – can no longer form new memories. What he does remember ends at about 1970. After trying all sorts of medicines and other therapies, Henry finds an article written by a musical therapist, Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond); Daley tries to use music to bring Gabriel back to the present, as he still believes it’s 1970 or so. And she quickly learns – no spoiler here – that although Gabriel is musically inclined, he reacts positively only to music from the late 1960s and thereabouts, especially that of the Grateful Dead.

The lack of memory emphasizes the schism between Henry and Gabriel and Henry’s depressed state results in his being placed on sick leave from his successful job to deal with the trauma of his family. Music having been so important to Gabriel as young man introduces the music therapist Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond) who meticulously follows the cues form Gabriel’s attention span and is able to open the doorway to his memory loss through his love of the music of his time. Henry latches on to this and decides the only way he will be able to rebuild the broken fence of his relationship to Gabriel will be through music and together the two find connection despite the neurological blockades.

The DVD comes with a director’s commentary, deleted scenes and interviews. It’s quite the loaded disc for a film that I don’t believe ever received a legit theatrical release. The material raises above the usual medical drama pandering, even though it goes borderline with the forced 1960s nostalgia music. A mood is set and the film keeps from turning into an overt modern period piece, but all of that doesn’t matter. Pucci and Simmons carry this movie on their backs, so they deserved some sort of award recognition for it. They didn’t receive it, but we get a DVD with above average A/V Quality and features. I’d recommend a purchase.



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