Alive Inside

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Alive Inside Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, tween-friendly docu on music's impact on memory.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 73 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Music is the window through which we can reach the elderly who are suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia, and other conditions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dan Cohen is absolutely committed to his cause and is determined to bring music to nursing homes, despite bureaucratic challenges. The healthcare providers featured in the film clearly care about their charges, and the seniors themselves inspire in the way they embrace music and what it can do for them.


iPods figure prominently in Dan Cohen's program, as well as headphones made by Koss and Coby.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some discussion about the role that medication plays in the treatment of medical conditions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alive Inside is an enlightening documentary that's likely to bring viewers to tears, especially the parts when previously uncommunicative seniors come alive once they hear the music of their youth. The film's message is one of hope and determination, but there's also a real sense of urgency to the subject's mission. You can also expect a streak of melancholy, as when a bipolar woman is finally able to express and release her inner turmoil through music. There's no swearing or nudity, but the subject matter can be pretty intense, making this a better fit for older tweens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 12-year-old Written byH2Clark December 11, 2014

Touching, Kept the family in engaged.

We watched this, with my 12 & 10 yo boys. We did hit pause to give the definition of the word Gerontologist, but all in all. We were in enthralled. I en... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In ALIVE INSIDE, we meet Dan Cohen, a social worker who noticed that elderly patients suffering from heavy memory loss blossomed once they were able to listen to music that had meaning for them. With a mix of science, interviews, and archival clips, the documentary explains why it's so important to include music as part of the therapies offered to the elderly, especially those isolated in nursing homes and struggling to communicate with the outside world.

Is it any good?

Alive Inside has a simple but effective message: Music makes a difference in the lives of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. So why is this country so much more invested in funding pharmaceuticals, leaving Cohen and his supporters to scrape for every cent, every headphone, every mp3 machine to help seniors connect to their past and to the outside world? Time and again, in clip after clip, Cohen shows how those who are previously unreachable open up once they're awakened with music. And each time, it's a heartbreaking revelation, as when Henry, hunched over in his wheelchair, suddenly begins to rock and sing and, later, talk about his past. Or when Nell, who's realizing that her memories are slipping through a sieve she can't jettison, both smiles and tears up as the music starts, allowing her to feel some measure of control over her life.

The film relies on straightforward storytelling, interviews (with experts including the esteemed Oliver Sacks), and narration interspersed with graphics to explain the science, proof that you don'tneed to gild the lily when the lily is already so substantial and beautiful. (It's sometimes repetitive, but not overwhelmingly so.) This is a powerful film that deserves the care and consideration that filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett gives his subject.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Music and Memory program that Dan Cohen has created. Is it inspiring? Why is it still struggling to find financial support?

  • How does Alive Inside leave you feeling? What do we learn about growing old and the role that music plays for those afflicted with Alzheimer's and dementia?

  • What do you think of Cohen and others like him? How do they keep going when their causes face financial struggles?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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