Here’s a crowd pleasing movie. Parents find their long lost adult son in a hospital, suffering from a brain tumor that has erased his much of his memory (and all of his short term memory). A speech therapist discovers that the son’s personality is sparked by music that he remembers from his teens. The father and the son have been estranged since the son left after an argument between them. The father finds that he can reach over the memory disability and re-connect by learning the son’s music.
The son’s music is all from the period 1964 to 1970 – and this music is another character in the film. Dad leaves behind his Big Band sensibilities to embrace Bob Dylan, Donovan, Steppenwolf, Crosby Stills & Nash and, especially the Grateful Dead. Baby Boomers and Dead Heads will really enjoy this movie from the music alone. Indeed, the Dead’s Bob Weir and Mickey Hart have been out supporting the movie.
The film is a showcase for the excellent actor J.K. Simmons, who plays the father. Simmons is always very, very good (Juno‘s dad, getting fired in Up in the Air and on TV’s Oz and Law and Order). Here, he plays a guy who is secure in his own righteousness, but then sees and accepts his own responsibility for the estrangement, and whose love for his son motivates him to make some big changes. Lou Taylor Pucci is excellent as the son. Julia Ormond does a good job playing the speech therapist.
Now I generally hate “disease of the week” movies. Really hate them. But here the real story is about the relationship between father and son, and the rebuilding of the bond between them. The memory disability, along with their past and the father’s initial stubbornness, is just another obstacle to their communication.
The story is based on an actual case described by Oliver Sacks in his essay The Last Hippie.