'Joaquim de Almeida plays a neuroscientist attempting to help a street singer with Alzheimer's disease in Richie Adams' New Orleans-set drama.'
"The plague of Alzheimer's disease and the emotional toll it takes on caregivers has, sadly, long been a fruitful subject for drama. But Richie Adams' Of Mind and Music is a particularly moving entry in the genre, gaining strength through its undeniable authenticity. The film is based on a novel by Nicolas Bazan, a neuroscientist specializing in the subject, who also co-wrote the screenplay and executive produced. Featuring outstanding performances and making excellent use of its scenic New Orleans locations, the film handles its delicate subject matter with a deeply affecting emotional restraint.
The opening scene alone will tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has experienced the illness through a loved one. Sitting quietly with his elderly mother is Dr. Alvaro Cruz (Joaquim de Almeida), who informs her that he won't be seeing her for the next few days while he attends a medical conference in Paris. She seems to understand, but a few moments later, as he's heading out the door, she asks if she'll see him tomorrow.
"Yes, mama," he replies in a sad, resigned tone. "See you tomorrow."
She dies while he's away, leaving him both grief-stricken and guilt-ridden. He withdraws from work, consoling himself by wandering around New Orleans' French Quarter and partaking of the music both he and his mother loved. There he encounters the street performers Una Vida (Aunjanue Ellis), a singer whose ethereal voice captivates him, and her elderly guitar-playing accompanist Stompleg (Bill Cobbs).
Returning several times to hear them perform, Cruz soon realizes that the songstress is suffering from Alzheimer's and that Stompleg is as much her caregiver as her musical partner. He also discovers that her symptoms are dramatically lessened by music (an idea also explored in the recent documentary Alive Inside) and, motivated by both personal and professional reasons, he offers to lend his assistance.
The intervention proves necessary, as Una Vida's condition worsens, even as Stompleg is preparing to retire to an old age home out of state. Her adopted daughter, Jessica (Ruth Negga), is hostile to Cruz's efforts and has intense personal issues of her own. But she reluctantly agrees to help him locate Una Vida's son, who she was forced to surrender to social services when he was five years old.
Interweaving its moving tale with haunting dream sequences in which Cruz imagines himself as a child with his vibrant young mother, the film is an evocative portrait of love and loss. By the time it reaches its highly emotional final scene, it has long since earned our tears.
De Almeida, often seen in villainous roles, delivers a beautifully understated turn as the grieving doctor struggling to come to terms with loss both intellectually and emotionally. Ellis powerfully conveys the ravaging effects of her character's illness, and the ever-reliable Cobbs is terrific as her loving friend.
With its overall effect further enhanced by superb cinematography and gorgeous musical score, Of Mind and Music is a quiet gem."
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Joaquim De Almeida
A highly esteemed film, television, and theater actor often recognized for his stunning and memorable performance as Col. Felix Cortez in Clear and Present Danger.
His recent films include the major box-office hit Fast Five of the Fast & Furious franchise, “Che: Part 2” starring with Benicio del Toro, and The Death and Life of Bobby Z alongside Olivia Wilde and Paul Walker. Many will remember him as the devastating villain in Season 3 of the popular series 24. He recently wrapped production on Our Brand is Crisis, starring opposite Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton.
Star of the epic BET event series, The Book of Negroes, based on Lawrence Hill's best-selling novel of the same name.
She recently completed production on Get On Up, director Tate Taylor's (The Help) biopic of the singer James Brown. In addition to the fourth season of the hit CBS drama, NCIS: Los Angeles, Ellis was seen in Lifetime's Abducted: The Carlina White Story, a performance that Variety called a "powerhouse.” Ellis earned a SAG Award for her performance in The Help, the 2011 blockbuster starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Her portrayal of Mary Ann Fisher in the biopic, Ray, also garnered a nomination for a SAG award.
Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio where his mother was a cleaning lady and his father was a construction worker. As an amateur actor in the city’s Karamu House Theater, he starred in the Ossie Davis play Purlie Victorious. Cobbs was an Air Force Radar technician for eight years. He also worked in office products at IBM and sold cars in Cleveland.
Bill has gone on to appear in such films as, Decoration Day, New Jack City, I know What You Did Last Summer, The Color Of Money and The Bodyguard. He was extraordinary opposite Duvall in indie film Get Low. Other films include Black Water Transit, The Muppets Movie, OZ The Great And Powerful.