Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, weaves a narrative that confronts Alzheimer’s and the power of music
Music can be used to soothe the soul and to help buffer the wounds that life inflicts. This truism is evident in Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, a deep, soul-searching film that promotes the need to appreciate and to cherish the past achievements of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This film highlights the challenges these diseases present—not only to those afflicted by them, but also to their family members and caregivers.
The screenplay was written by Dr. Nicolas Bazan and Richie Adams and is based on a novel written by Bazan, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s.
Joaquim de Almeida (Desperado) plays Dr. Alvaro Cruz, a neuroscientist whose research mirrors Bazan’s. Cruz receives news of his mother’s death while at a scientific meeting in Paris. Distraught, he returns home to New Orleans and decides to take a leave from his research to deal with the emotions brought on by his mother’s death. He finds himself in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where he discovers Una Vida, played by Aunjanue Ellis, an African-American jazz singer, performing in a bar. He again witnesses her performing at an old diner he used to frequent with his mother. Struck by the way she appears to lose her place in the music and then quickly find it again, he concludes that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and decides to use his scientific expertise to help her. In this quest, he discovers her musical past and, at the same time, embarks on an emotional journey that helps him cope with his mother’s death and his subsequent sense of loss. This act of altruism enables him to help Una Vida’s family cope with her illness.
As the film’s title suggests, music is prominently featured throughout the film. The musical score was composed and produced by Carlos José Alvarez, and includes rich traditional pieces such as “Motherless Child,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Avalon,” intertwined with new pieces that provide a powerful and unique New Orleans flavour.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are very emotionally stressful and isolating experiences, which are turned into a heart-rending tale by the plot and stellar performances by the actors. The story that unravels is powerful, appealingly realistic and entertaining. The film succeeds at raising awareness for these diseases, and promotes a community approach to handling them.
You can see Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind at Cineplex Quartier Latin on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.