REVIEW: ‘Don’t Think Twice’ (2020) is an Intimate Reflection on Dementia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“a tender embrace of the power of music in the face of a fragile mind”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 1 in every 14 of the population aged 65-years-and-over lives with dementia. The main symptom of the syndrome is the gradual deterioration of the memory which limits the ability to perform everyday activities. The ongoing decline of brain functioning can be a terrifying topic but Harry Hitchens’ film Don’t Think Twice demonstrates a personable approach to the dehumanising features of dementia.

We meet John as he explains his dementia diagnosis. At 24-years-old he was involved in a serious accident and 10 years ago a scan revealed massive damage to the side of his brain. John finds a correlation between these two events. Geraldine, John’s partner, enters the frame and turns on a side-lamp, illuminating John and bringing him out of the darkness to unpack the events he has rationalised. Geraldine decodes John’s logic; explaining his temporal lobe is at the core of the deterioration, a rare form of dementia leading to the decay of semantic understating. As John slots the edge pieces of the puzzle together, it is Geraldine who joins in to fill the gaps.

The delicate state of John’s memory is handled both artistically and sensitively, expressing his state of mind using voice-over to craft a narrative path that he can walk. Without conventional talking-heads, the documentary favours an intimate consideration of semantic dementia that is told affectionately on-screen.

As his memory and depression worsens, John finds escapism in music. Jon, a volunteer at the Hackney befriending service, is paired with John and they bond over their musical abilities. The remarkable impact music has on John’s life is empowering. Bob Dylan’s melodies make up the soundtrack of the two men jamming together on guitar and singing in harmony. Music is the light that manages to shine through John’s dark cloud of depression, even when it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to experience joy.

John (left) and Jon (right) both play guitars and sing together.
John and Jon making music – Image courtesy of An Everyday Production

The image of a bold oak tree becomes metaphoric for John’s journey. Geraldine articulates such thought against the image of the stunning oak standing alone. Its leaves are beautiful variants of green, but as winter approaches the leaves begin to fall and they decompose back into the ground. Just like these randomly falling leaves, John’s memory gradually slips away from him. The ebb and flow of the mind is captured in the dimming and illuminating of warm room lights. As Geraldine notes: “If he stops to reflect upon something, he can’t find a positive thought about it.” Therefore, relishing every moment is incredibly important to Geraldine and John’s companionship. Negotiating peacefulness in the present with the turbulent inevitability of the future, Hitchens’ handing of instability is sincere and respectful.

Crafted with compassion, Don’t Think Twice is a tender embrace of the power of music in the face of a fragile mind. The short is a concise recollection that treasures companionship and the unity of music. Such a sentiment is sung by Dylan and whistled by John: don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Dir. Harry Hitchens

Prod. Harry Hitchens and Chloe Abrahams – An Everyday Production

Release Date: October 11, 2020

Header Image courtesy of An Everyday Production