Music Within

Directed by Steven Sawalich, Music Within tells the true story of Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston), a brilliant public speaker who enlists in Vietnam to help secure enrollment into college, and who loses his hearing in a bomb blast. He returns from the war and finds his true purpose in life; to help disabled Americans find work and he becomes the voice for there cause.

After surviving both a tramatic childhood and Vietnam, brilliant and natural public speaker Richard Pimental returns from the war having lost his hearing. He enters college and teaches himself to lip read and meets Art Honeyman (Michael Sheen), a brilliant genius stuck in a wheelchair with a disfiguring condition called cerebral-palsy, a condition where the person’s brain works normally, but there body doesn’t. After viewing how Art is treated by the students around them, Richard befriends him and they soon meet Christine (Melissa George), a sexually freeminded young woman who falls for Richard. Soon, Richard finds his calling and begins to help other disabled vets find jobs, and then begins to help all Americans with disabilities. Government begins to take notice, and Richard is tasked with writing a handbook for American companies to follow in hiring disabled Americans. Richard eventually travels the country to help major companies and levels of government to train its employers on how to treat the disabled and how to hire them, and it all eventually leads to the inclusion of the disabled Americans act in the early 1990’s.

At once a highly moving, poignant and incredibly well acted film, Music Within will also most likely make even the most callis person feel slightly guilty. The movie’s message is a powerful one, that you can’t treat people differently just because they don’t look like you, and the elegant writing of screenwriters Bret McKinney, Mark Andrew Olson and Kelly Kennemer drives that point home in a very moving and identifiable way. Like women’s rights, the civil rights movement and all the other struggles of the time, it is easy for us today to forget how it was just a few short decades ago, and that if not for people like Richard, a whole group of Americans would have no voice. It’s a story I’m not ashamed to admit I was unaware of, taking it for granted that the disabled Americans act had always been there and I had no idea it was so recent before they finally found that success. I doubt I am alone in that statement, and its why the film is so important and why the fact that its so well done makes it even more remarkable.

The performances by the lead actors also make the movie enjoyable to watch and very inspiring. Ron Livingston’s portrayal of Pimental is extremely well done, and subtly layered in its deepness, playing both his witty, playful and romantic side with Art and Christine and also his passionate drive, anger and ethusiasm while championing his cause. Michael Sheen’s performance as Art is simply phenomonal, and award worthy. He never comes off as cliche, ridiculous or a figure to pitty, as is usually the case when even the best actors play people with disabilities this extreme, instead he comes off a charismatic and brilliant companion to Richard and steals more than one scene in the movie. Completing the leads is Melissa George, who doesn’t seem as comfortable in the movie right away, but grows with her character and eventually has one of the more poignant scenes with Richard near the end of the film on his front steps. It’s a shorter film, and she plays a smaller role within it, but her character does have the biggest change in the film, which (eventually) George plays quite nicely.

Film’s like this often seem like they’re waving a finger at you, trying to make you feel bad, which at times this one will feel that way, but mostly it is just an inspired story of a true American who stood up for what was wrong and changed it. An emotional, heartfelt and compelling drama that is highly recommended.

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