There's an interesting YouTube video that seems to be making the rounds on Facebook this week.
It features Henry, an elderly nursing home resident who is uncommunicative and borderline catatonic until someone puts headphones on him and plays him the big band jazz music he loved when he was younger.
Then he comes to life. And the effect even lasts for awhile after the music stops. Doctors and his family are able to carry on a conversation with him for a short time afterward. The music seems to rewire and refire a brain that is disintegrating through old age and disease.
The end of the clip promotes a documentary called ''Alive Inside,'' which it says is coming soon. But coincidentally, over the weekend I watched a feature film that is based on the same research by neurologist / author Oliver Sacks, who is featured in the clip with Henry.
''The Music Never Stopped'' received mostly positive reviews, but it only earned about $250,000 during its limited theatrical release last spring.
The movie is set in 1986. A couple's long-estranged son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) is found wandering the streets and suffering from a massive brain tumor. The growth is benign, but removing it damages vital parts of his brain, making him unable to create new memories or live anything resembling a normal life. Ask him a question, and he responds with nonsense.
The one thing Gabriel does respond to his music. The father (J.K. Simmons) brings in a researcher (Julia Ormond) who specializes in music therapy to work with Gabriel, and the music of the late '60s connects with Gabriel in the same way those big band sounds affect Henry. The memories Gabriel associates with that music comes rushing back to him, and even if he thinks its 1970 instead of 1986, it brings back the boy his parents remember.
The only problem is that Gabriel left home in 1968 after clashing with his parents - mainly his dad - over his music, the Vietnam War and the '60s counterculture. And his father realizes the only way can connect with his son in the present is to embrace the music that drove a wedge between them nearly 20 years ago. Director Jim Kohlberg and writers Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks fill the movie with the songs of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield and especially The Grateful Dead.
It's not a perfect movie by any means. Cara Seymour, who plays Gabriel's mother, only does a so-so job of burying her natural English accent (it comes out whenever her character gets angry). With flashbacks Simmons has to play the father over a span of 30+ years, and there's no makeup artist that can make that transition convincing, especially on what was a low-budget affair. The budget constraints also are noticeable in a rock concert scene late in the film.
But the emotional power of the story shines through.
Simmons is a talented actor with impressive range - watch an episode of the HBO prison series ''Oz,'' where he played a racist inmate, back-to-back with ''Juno,'' where he played the title character's father - but he's never been given a chance to handle a dramatic role of this scale on film.
Some of the scenes between Simmons and Pucci are heartwrenching. And no movie I can think of has captured so effectively the way music and memory are intertwined.
''The Music Never Stopped'' is out on DVD, and it's available on Netflix instant streaming.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at grayareas@ tribtoday.com