How many times does one visit the nursing home? Feed the hungry? Or volunteer in any other way? It's an act of caring and giving that takes a lot to stomach. Many people these days, including myself try not to pay attention to these things because of how uncomfortable it is visually and physically see right in front of us. It's a quiet pity that we all hold and tend to push to the back of our minds. Hoping that all of our other daily tasks can distract us from such awkwardness. In some ways it's almost like today's generation is too embarrassed to acknowledge the issues and don't expect it to happen in our lifetime. When in fact, this is the exact opposite.
Now that's not to say when we get older, we will all develop alzheimer's and be put in nursing homes, but it's important to understand that it's also not the most uncommon of diseases like vitiligo or polio. Alzheimer's affects numerous elderly individuals and once it's diagnosed, there really isn't anything anyone can do from stopping it. However, one man has found a remedy to help slow it down, along with exposing various aspects of today's healthcare system. Dan Cohen (a public social worker) and filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett team up in this stunning documentary about how bringing music to alzheimer's patients can help bring back some, if not most of the life and soul of what used to be the youth of the early to mid 1900s.
There really isn't much to dispute about here. Both the writer/director and social worker duo demonstrate the power of music simply by putting headphones on the older folk. To watch them go from slumped over and quiet or mumbling to bouncing around and crying or laughing is astonishing. The results are phenomenal and it's quite honestly baffling because how come no one had ever thought of doing this before? You didn't even need iPods to figure this out; someone back in the late 1990s could have tried this with Walkmans or portable CD players. It all seems so obvious now and it's weird that no one considered this as a type of therapy. I mean, there are therapy dogs and other types of animals that are used to help jog patients' memories, so why not music? It's better than just feeding them pills and vitamins constantly everyday. Where's the enjoyment in that?
Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that even with all the positive results, the film crew displays continuous rejections from top authority figures in the healthcare system. It's tragic because who would deny such optimistic opportunities? Viewers should not only get a kick out of the end result to these amazing transformations but also how this particular story unfolds. The way this documentary is told, is by looking through the eyes of Dan Cohen when he first started trying this particular study. As time plays out, the viewer will see the struggles he had to face, the turndowns and even the surprises. An example of this would be how this particular film came to light. All it needed was to be released onto the internet and it got people motivated. I didn't even know about this until a friend of mine who plays in a group shared the link.
Another thing to think about are the possible futures that lie ahead for the currently old and the one's who will become old. Michael Rossato- Bennett brings into play how the number of elderly people have increased over time and if it continues at the same rate, there will be less supplies available to take care of them. It's a grim outlook if things aren't looked at carefully. As for the actual quality of filmmaking, it looks very good. Itaal Shur's musical composition perfectly blends in raw emotion and tenderness for each scene. Shachar Langlev's cinematography shows many POV shots giving viewers an idea of how bland and lifeless a nursing home looks like no matter how friendly the people who work there are.
This is perhaps the only drawback to this involving movie. It is a tad one-sided (although rightfully so for everything explained prior). But there are some things that aren't explored. For one, has there ever been a patient that was not willing to listen to music? Or has there ever been a patient willing to listen but it did not have the positive effect it had on so many others? These special scenarios would've been interesting to see as well. What would Dan Cohen's next step be to counter such a roadblock? These kinds of questions are important. Perhaps with a little more running time, the crew could have added that to this production. It is a very intellectual film that any viewer should watch because at some point, everyone gets old and just like Dennis Haysbert would ask from Allstate - "Are you in good hands"?
Aside from being a bit one-sided, this documentary explores the alternate avenue of fighting alzheimer's with the power of music. The provided information, music, patients and emotion are all authentic and it is exactly what makes this so uplifting to see.