Reccos: Awakenings

Director: Penny Marshall
Cast: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller

Awakenings is a true story based on Oliver Sacks’ memoir of the same name. Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams), a shy research physician uses an experimental drug to awaken the catatonic patients who survived an epidemic of encephalitis. Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) is the first to receive the controversial treatment and his awakening is seen as a miracle. Encouraged by Leonard’s stunning recovery, Sayer administers the drug to the other patients only to find out that the drug has side effects and that the benefit doesn’t last. The story of their friendship during this emotional journey is what the rest of the movie is about.

The movie is not overly sentimental nor does it have a fairy tale ending. The movie deals with how the patients who came back to life after so many years and their relatives have a hard time adjusting to the new reality. Some had lost their loved ones and some had moved on during their catatonic state. This causes most of the patients to feel lonely and having been cheated of their lives.

The movie is filled with beautiful scenes like the one where the patients all wake up from their catatonic state or the one where Leonard calls Dr. Sawyer and tells how people have forgotten the beauty of life or the scene where Leonard starts to rebel and has body guards or the scene where Leonard’s mother blames the drug for her son’s defiance or Leonard’s farewell scene and dance with Paula and his watching her leave through the window.

Robert De Niro is brilliant as Leonard and is exceptional in scenes where he is trying to control his facial and body tics. He should have won the Oscar for Best Actor but it was awarded to Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune. Dustin Hoffmann had won a Best Actor for playing an autistic character in 1988 and Daniel Day-Lewis had won the Best Actor in 1989 for his portrayal of Christy Brown, the Irish poet and author who suffered from cerebral palsy and may be the Academy did not want to award the Best Actor Oscar for playing a handicapped character third year in a row. Robin Williams is very good as the introverted, soft speaking doctor and the Academy should have nominated him for a Best Supporting Actor. Ruth Nelson as Leonard’s mother, Julie Kavner as Eleanor and Penelope Ann Miller as Paula and the rest of the cast all give wonderful performances.

Screenplay by Steven Zaillian is excellent and music by Randy Newman is beautiful specially the theme music. Cinematography by Miroslav Ondrícek is good. Penny Marshall’s direction is excellent and it is a surprise as to why she was not nominated for Best Directing. Awakenings received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Robert De Niro.

Awakenings is a movie that might be a little depressing for some. This movie is only for those who like serious cinema based on true stories that make them think. It is emotional, touching and worth watching.

Rating: 4 / 5 (Brilliant)

1 Comment
  1. Author
    sputnik 6 years ago

    Oliver Sacks, Neurologist And Author, Dies At 82
    “I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return.”

    Famed British neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died on Sunday at the age of 82, his assistant told The New York Times.

    The cause of death was cancer.

    In February, Sacks wrote an op-ed revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver.

    “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

    Sacks was a bestselling author who wrote a number of books, including Musicophilia, Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

    Born in London in 1933, Sacks grew up surrounded by a family of doctors. His mother was a surgeon and his father was a general practitioner.

    He moved to New York in 1965 and became a consulting neurologist for Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx. There, he successfully treated a group of patients who were stuck in “strange, frozen states, like human statues,” who later became the subjects of Awakenings.

    “Awakenings came from the most intense medical and human involvement I have even know, as I encountered, lived with, these patients in a Bronx hospital, some of whom had been transfixed, motionless, in a sort of trance, for decades,” he said.

    The book inspired a movie of the same name starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, which was nominated for three Oscars.

    His last book, a memoir, was published in April. On The Move details Sack’s childhood, his move to the United States, his sexuality, his professional achievements and his challenges.

    “In this book he studies himself as he has studied others: compassionately, unblinkingly, intelligently, acceptingly and honestly,” wrote Colin McGinn at The Wall Street Journal. “There will not be another like him.”

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