Based on a true-life case study by neurologist/author Oliver Sacks (Awakenings), The Music Never Stopped tells the story of a suburban New York couple, Henry (J.K. Simmons) and Helen Sawyer (Cara Seymour), who reconnect with their 30-something son, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci), in 1986 after nearly 20 years estranged. The complication: Gabriel has been affected by a severe but benign brain tumor which essentially froze his ability to make new memories in 1970.
Naturally, there’s a “music therapist” (Julia Ormond) to help once it becomes clear that Gabriel’s beloved ’60s music revives his personality—but it doesn’t just become another doctor/patient triumph-of-the-spirit story. And naturally the culture clash between Greatest-Generation Henry and hippie Gabriel is part of their conflict, but the film doesn’t linger there. Instead, it becomes something rarely seen in movies: a father-son love story, one in which Henry’s need to re-frame the past becomes just as important as Gabriel’s need to escape it. There are a few more expository flashbacks than really seem to be needed, but the terrific, sensitive performances by Simmons and Pucci make for an honestly affecting tear-jerker.