Alive Inside

Dawn Chmielewski, at Re/code, on the new documentary Alive Inside

Audiences first encounter Henry hunched over in his wheelchair, head down, hands clasped firmly together, unresponsive to the world around him.

As soon as a pair of headphones are placed on his head, the 94-year-old dementia patient opens his eyes, sits up straight and begins swaying and humming along with the music. Henry speaks animatedly about his favorite band leader, Cab Calloway, and even begins to emulate the jazz artist’s style of scat singing — at one point launching into a rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

I first encountered Henry’s story two years ago, through a promotional video for the film. That music can reach people who have even lost the ability to recognize their loved ones is incredibly moving, and the transformation in Henry’s case is astonishing.

I hope the film gets cinematic release on this side of the ocean. It sounds like one not to be missed.

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