The Sweetest Sound
The "sweetest sound" is hearing one's own name, posits this charming documentary, which covers a lot of ground in the brisk hour exploring how our names shape our lives. Filmmaker Alan Berliner (not to be confused with Alain Berliner, the Belgian director of La Vie en Rose) invites to dinner all the people in the world who share his moniker--about 800, a Web search tells him. A dozen men respond, and the dinner party, a gathering of mostly middle-aged Jewish professionals, seeks to answer the host's question: "Is one of them a better Alan Berliner than me?" It never quite does address that query--the party itself seems a better idea on paper than in practice--but getting there is a great deal of fun. Along the way, Berliner interviews family members about how they named their kids and people on the street on their feelings about their own names and his. ("Allen with an 'E': fat," one woman informs him. "Alan with an 'A': not fat.") He also debunks a myth about names and Ellis Island that might prod you into calling your grandparents.