Friday Flick – Awakenings

What:  Awakenings


When:  1990

Who:  Robert De Niro and Robin Williams

What’s the story:  Whether you believe in miracles or not, Awakenings shows that miracles can happen – whether it is for a moment, a day, a month, a year or forever. This film is based on the story of the world-renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, who discovers the benefits of a Parkinson’s drug and uses it to awaken victims of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic that occurred during the summer of 1969. Fictionalized into an American story with the brilliant performances of Robin Williams as Dr. Sayer – a character that represents Sacks, and Robert De Niro as Leonard – the first patient to receive the drug and awaken after 30 years in a catatonic state.

Where:  The Bronx in New York City

Why it’s amazing:  Roger Ebert said it best – “After seeing Awakenings, I read it, to know more about what happened in that Bronx Hospital.” This statement seems simple but it rings true. This movie has a great ability to spark interest and curiosity in its viewers, making most people wanting to learn more about the story and Oliver Sack’s medical study. The passionate performance given by Robin Williams is moving. The emotional performance given by Robert De Niro can bring one to tears. You can feel the joy when the awakenings happen and you can feel the sorrows of what the patients’ experience.

What is bad about it:  It would have been nice to hear more about the aftermath at the end of the movie, as well as any medical strides that Sacks have hit since the awakenings in 1969.

Wonderful scene in the movie:  When Dr. Sayer takes Leonard out of the hospital for a day and Leonard sees the ocean for the very first time.

Fun Fact:  Penny Marshall, the director, wanted Bill Murray to play Leonard Lowe but she picked Robert De Niro to avoid audiences from thinking it would be a comedic film.


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