According to his son, Clive Wearing was at one time an "intellectual colossus". He was also a highly acclaimed conductor and musician. Then, in 1985, a virus left sections of his brain severely impaired, particularly those responsible for memory retention. As a result, he now lives in a constant state of reawakening. The Man with the Seven Second Memory is a compassionate and compelling portrait of his daily existence.
The film marvels at the mysteries of Wearing's condition, and of the brain itself. Even though his memories only survive for moments at a time, he still maintains a virtuoso's grasp of the musical language. He can't recall his own age or what day of the week it is, but he never forgets his wife's name. It seems that what he loves most in life is ingrained in him; it transcends the confines of memory.
How do Weaving and his family cope with one of the most extreme cases of amnesia in recorded history? The filmmakers pull footage from an earlier documentary which was produced in the direct aftermath of his diagnosis. Through these flashbacks, the film shows us their gradual process of acceptance. We witness episodes of intense strife, strain and anguish. He calls his wife from the hospital begging for her to come visit him, failing to recall that she only left his side minutes ago. He shouts out in frustration as his wife calls attention to the rituals he has no recollection of engaging in.
In contrast, the Weaving family of today is much more centered, accepting and graceful in their response to life's daily challenges. In the throes of extreme mental dysfunction, they've learned to embrace the wonder of it all. There are undeniable drawbacks associated with living each moment as though it's your first, but there is also great beauty. His wife's unfaltering patience and understanding is never less than inspiring, and viewers are sure to be equally moved by Weaver's calm, congenial, and self-effacing manner.
In the midst of this deeply meaningful and personal portrait, The Man with the Seven Second Memory touches upon a series of deeper themes, including the extent to which our lives are defined by our memories.
Directed by: Jane Treays