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Movie Review: The Music Never Stopped

by Kimberly on March 16, 2011 · 8 comments

This is the month of music therapy reviews! Last week, I shared with you my review of Jodi Picoult’s new book, Sing You Home (and I invite you to check it out–especially the insightful comments others shared!).

This week, I share with you my review of the almost-released movie The Music Never Stopped.

Review of The Music Never Stopped

This movie is based on the story “The Last Hippie” that was published in Oliver Sacks’s 1995 book An Anthropologist On Mars. The music therapy community is super excited about this movie because, even though the story isn’t about music therapy, one of the main characters IS a music therapist!

As a “general movie-goer,” I thought the movie was superb. I laughed. I cried. The acting was wonderful and the music credits at the end extensive 🙂

I also appreciated how “low-tech” the movie was. So many modern movies feature high-tech computer and digital help…which is entertaining in it’s own way. But it was also nice to have a break from that.

As a music therapist, I was highly pleased with how music therapy was portrayed. I was concerned going into it because the story takes place in the mid-1980s. And, although I was a little girl and didn’t yet know about this fabulous field I would enter, I can guess that music therapy practice was a little different 25 years ago!

Yet I thought the description given by the music therapist in the movie (portrayed by the lovely Julia Ormond) was current and accurate. Whether that’s how it was described in the original story or not, it worked as a description for now. Which is important given that this may be the first time thousands of movie-goers have even heard of music therapy!

The only downside is that a lot of recorded music was used in the movie. And, as any music therapist these days knows, live music is much preferred over recorded music. That said, most of the recorded music wasn’t used by the music therapist–it was about a 50-50 split of live music and recorded music when “music therapy” was portrayed.

A final note of appreciation–as a therapist, I was grateful that the movie portrayed the whole family being involved in the main character’s treatment. No client or patient can go it alone and it takes a support system of people helping him/her. This movie showed us that.


All in all,  I thought The Music Never Stopped gave a fair and accurate portrayal of music therapy. This will be a nice introduction to the field for hundreds, if not thousands, of moviegoers. And as an added bonus, it’s an overall wonderful movie!

Please check out the website for The Music Never Stopped to see if it’s coming to a theater near you.

P.S. Apparently music therapists aren’t the only ones who are protective of our passion. I got a big kick out of the Grateful Dead fans who were analyzing whether the concert in the movie accurately portrayed a real-live Dead concert 🙂


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Joy in Motion March 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I hadn’t heard of this movie, but your review makes me want to see it! Good to know that it meets the approval of a music therapist, because I don’t know much about the field but would love to learn more (I’m a dancer). Thanks!

Speaking of reviews, have you come across W.A. Mathieu’s Bridge of Waves: What Music Is and How Listening to It Changes the World (released last December)? I just started reading it a couple of weeks ago and have been uncharacteristically making myself read slowly (one chapter a week) so I can absorb it better and take time to write down some thoughts on each chapter. You might be interested in checking it out. I think my favorite so far would have to be Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.

I’m glad I found your site; I’m really enjoying taking a look around. Cheers!

Jesse March 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I’m a little bummed that it’s going to be so hard for me to see this movie when it gets released. Oh well…I guess there’s always DVD.

Rachel March 17, 2011 at 9:01 am

I was looking forward to hearing your review, seeing how other MT’s in the field perceived the role of MT in this movie. I would love to hear from a non-MT , who doesn’t know anything about the field, to see what their thoughts were on MT. I was disappointed that I felt it was 80% recorded music, and that is how she started all the sessions. I wondered- would people think that when the nurse came in to play a recorded song…this is music therapy? Or that it would be appropriate for nurses to start doing this with patients? When the dad starts playing records…is he doing music therapy?
I am not concluding that it was all bad- I enjoyed some of the descriptions…..but the original meeting of the MT was her playing cello for students with head phones on…. so..I just wondered if this is how MT used to be? Is this how MT is going to be perceived?
I feel like in “Hollywood”- it can be even more sensitive when thinking about how MT is perceived due to its larger audience. Last night a bunch of us in Illinois went to the screening in Chicago, and set up a booth about music therapy…. but I wasn’t sure if I saw a lot of interest in people wanting to learn more about this field. Will people think that if you just play patient preferred music…that is enough? What is the point of the MT?
I would like to recommend this movie, but I feel kind of hesitant…. I am a little sick of getting the question- “so do you play CD’s for people??”…

Kimberly March 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

@Joy in Motion–I hope you enjoy the movie! And thank you for the book recommendations. I hadn’t heard of those books!
@Jesse That is a bummer 🙁 Let’s hope it’s out on DVD soon!
@Rachel I was initially disappointed about that, too (the over-use of recorded music), but realized that most of the recorded music seemed to be played by the father. Additionally, we really only saw two different interventions being used–one with live music and one with recorded music. At least there was some “variety” there 🙂 What’s funny is that I had a different perception of the “cello and headphones” scene–to me, it seemed like he walked right in to a research session! It had me “annoyed” more as a researcher than a music therapist–would someone really walk in and interrupt active research like that?!? LOL!
Seriously, though…we are not alone in feeling discouraged or disappointed by how others (authors, journalists, movie makers) represent our field. Other professions go through the same thing (e.g. do you think a White House staff job is really like it was in the TV show “The West Wing”? Probably not…) I want to encourage you to continue to use this movie (and other media events) as a way to stimulate discussion about music therapy…even if they don’t “get” us quite right 🙂 ~Kimberly

Janice March 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

According to a co-worker of Connie Tomaino, who I interviewed on my radio show today, the interventions were portrayed accurately. I won’t get to see this movie unless it goes into wider release. The closest showing to me is over 3 hours away. I hope, though, that it doesn’t go to DVD too soon! I want it to stay in theaters for a while, because that will mean it’s making good $$ and that people are seeing it!

Even though it can be tiring to keep explaining music therapy to people, that’s how we educate. The more discussion there is, the better!

Kimberly March 19, 2011 at 8:29 am

I agree, Janice! And thank you for sharing the information about the accuracy of the interventions! I had hoped that was the case…but didn’t want to assume 🙂 I hope the movies comes to a “theater near you” soon! ~Kimberly

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