You’d have to have a heart of stone and bricks for ears not to be moved by the sight of Henry when the music hits him. A 94-year-old resident in a senior care home who is first seen covering his lowered head with his handshands, Henry springs alive – eyes wide, mouth singing, hands aflutter – when former teacher Dan Cohen plays some gospel music for the man on an iPod. A miracle, surely.
Michael Rossatto-Bennett’s Alive Inside, winner of the audience favourite award at this year’s Sundance film festival, follows Cohen in his attempts to bring personalized music to sufferers of Alzheimer’s and dementia to American nursing homes. If Henry’s case is the movie’s most dramatic evidence of the effectiveness of Cohen’s belief that nothing restores the diminished spirit than a shot of music that means something to us, his experience is hardly exceptional.
Although split in focus between explaining the neurological process whereby music feeds the hungry soul and arguing for a reformed senior health-care system, Alive Inside packs as potent a simple emotional wallop as anything you’ll see – or hear – anywhere this year.