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The Music Never Stopped: Sweet Drama about the Healing Power of Music
It’s the year 1986 and Gabriel (Pucci) has just had a brain tumour removed, resulting in memory loss and an inability to create any new long-term memories. His recollections peter out around the 1970 mark, around the time when he fell out with his dad, Henry (Simmons), and left home, never to return again. In an attempt to help his son regain a semblance of his life again, Henry reaches out to Dianne (Ormond), a music therapist who thinks that Gabriel’s favourite music from the period he remembers could help trigger his memory. The Music Never Stops tells the story of how the father and son reconnect over their shared love of music.
Considering the time period, it’s only appropriate that the film be crammed with music by artists such as Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf and Cream; with the most prominent being the Grateful Dead. It’s quite satisfying to hear some of these artists’ best songs showcased prominently, being appropriately revered by Gabriel.
Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’ in particular gets a pretty awesome showcase where Gabriel goes all starry eyed, analyzes the song and starts explaining to his dad exactly why he connects with it so much. This kind of situation happens quite often throughout the film, but it rarely works as well as it does here mainly due to Pucci’s performance, which is disappointingly one-note. He reacts to every song in exactly the same way, gasping and flinging around a bunch of ‘far out’s and ‘trippy’. He reacts the same way to the Grateful Dead as he does to every other song from the aforementioned bands even though we’re told in no uncertain terms that he’s a deadhead through and through.
On the other hand, Simmons is heartbreaking as Henry. He gives an absolutely fantastic performance. Henry goes through a whole cycle where he worries about his son, is absolutely distressed over his memory loss, loses hope in ever getting him back to normal until he discovers music therapy and clutches at it desperately. Throughout the film, Henry and Gabriel work out their relationship, and Henry learns to see his son as an individual with his own personality instead of an extension of himself. He learns to face up to his parenting faults instead of continuing to blame rock and roll for poisoning his son with ‘controversial’ political beliefs.
Although it goes on a little too long, The Music Never Stopped is sweetly upbeat with an epic soundtrack. Fans of this kind of music will connect with Gabriel simply on a musical appreciation level. As hokey as it sounds, they’ll completely understand why he feels inspired when he hears certain songs and that, next to Simmons’ performance, is the most uplifting thing about the film.
She wakes up from her coma to a husband who she doesn’t remember and parents who are overjoyed that she’s forgotten about their dispute. While Paige’s parents try to bring her back to the way of life that she’d rebelled against, Leo tries to help her remember why she’d left all that behind in the first place. Fighting for a wife who doesn’t remember him and is a completely different person than the one he knew, Leo tries to get her to fall in love with him again.
The film rarely gets unbearably cheesy, setting it apart from your run of the mill Sparks adaptation. It gets mushy, emotional and sappy, but it’s more likely to make you smile than roll your eyes. Leo’s pain and heartbreak combined with Paige’s family’s delight at having their daughter back, gives the film a level of grit that keeps it from becoming overly cloying. However, the secret of the film’s success is the leads, who have great chemistry and manage to pass off some of the cheesiness as bearable.
Titled from a popular term which describes the early transfer of a young offender from a juvenile detention facility to an adult penitentiary, Starred Up is by no means an easy watch. However, as much as it is difficult to digest at times, there is a certain poetic beauty behind its seemingly violent and destructive quality that makes it difficult to look away from.
Shot within the walls of an abandoned Belfast prison, the film opens with troubled nineteen-year-old Eric Love (O’Connell) undergoing an embarrassing admittance process, involving a complete body strip down, as he’s transferred into an adult reformatory.
Immediately marked as a “single cell, high risk” type detainee, it doesn’t take long for Eric – whose frequent and violent outbursts got him relocated there in the first place – to stir up trouble and make enemies both with fellow inmates and security guards.
After a mistaken attack on another inmate lands the young delinquent into the disciplinary hands of the law, Eric is soon approached – and rescued – by the in-house therapist, Oliver Braumer (Friend), who believes that he can help the young man rehabilitate.
Unfortunately, getting to the root of Eric’s problems - and getting him to open up - is no easy task and Oliver - together with the other rehabilitating convicts - often find themselves the targets of both verbal and physical abuse. To top it off, Eric has to find a way to learn to share the walls of his new confinements with his estranged father, Nev (Mendelsohn), who is currently serving a life-sentence in the same prison.
Penned by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Asser – a former prison psychotherapist whose own experience with the British penal-system adds a hefty dose of authenticity and realism to the film – Starred Up, told through a series of wordless and violent expositions, is fuelled with gripping intensity which is hard to shake off. Relying on action, rather than words, the uniqueness – and the heart - of the story lies with the father-son narrative, whose bonding difficulties are depicted through the oppressiveness of life in prison.
Contributing to the movie’s relentless and uncompromising approach to despair and violence, O’Connell – mostly known for his role in the British TV-series Skins and recently seen as the lead in Angelina Jolie’s war-drama Unbroken – is an absolute standout; feral and unpredictable, his performance carries the film, while Mendelsohn is equally superb as a man whose persona and motives are seemingly hard to read.
Powerful, emotional but never too sentimental, Starred Up is a true British-prison drama classic whose quietly yielding power and passion for storytelling will leave you feeling captivated and moved.