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RELEASED: 1990, Cert.12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR: Penny Marshall
PRODUCERS: Lawrence Lasker & Walter F Parkes
SCREENPLAY: Steven Zaillian
MUSIC: Randy Newman
Robert De Niro as Leonard Lowe
Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer
Ruth Nelson as Mrs Lowe, Leonard's mother
Julie Kavner as Eleanor
Alice Drummond a Lucy
John Heard as Dr. Kaufman
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on true events and on Dr. Oliver Sacks' book in which he tells his own story, Awakenings starts in the late 1920s and is set in The Bronx, where we see a boy fall ill.
The film then jumps forward to the summer of 1969 when Dr. Malcom Sayer accepts a job at a hospital where the patients have long-term, chronic illnesses, some of them (the patients) being in a permanently catatonic state.
It comes to Malcolm Sayer's attention that one patient on his ward (Lucy) displays certain levels of awareness and activity which had previously not been explored, simply because the other members of the medical staff hadn't noticed, due to them believing this type of patient to be completely catatonic, with no breakthrough level and no way out of their locked-in syndrome.
Malcolm Sayer carries out some investigative research, and it comes to light that these patients (including Lucy) all are victims of encephalitis lethargica, of which there was an epidemic in the USA during most of the 1920s.
Back on the ward, Malcolm also notices that another patient, Leonard, is able to communicate by using the letters on an Ouija board to spell out certain words.
From that point onwards, Malcolm sees a ray of hope for the catatonic encephalitis victims, many of who have been in the hospital for over forty years. After attending a medical conference, Malcolm takes an interest in the anti-Parkinson's Disease drug, L-Dopa, believing it will significantly help the catatonic patients to regain at least some level of normality.
Up against a cynical Dr. Kaufman and a lack of funding, Malcolm manages to get permission to administer large doses of L-Dopa to Leonard, more as an experiment than anything.
The drug therapy is successful, and Leonard gradually improves to the point where he is completely normal, which encourages Malcolm to administer the drug to the other encephalitis lethargica victims.
However, in his honourable and noble quest to help his patients, Malcolm's vision of those patients returning to full health is fraught with problems.
See the film yourself to find out more!
I first chose to watch Awakenings in the early 1990s on VHS, simply because I too suffered from encephalitis when I was a small child, albeit a different and potentially less serious form of the illness.
During the very first part of the film, I could relate so strongly to what was happening to the little boy in The Bronx in 1928, whereby in the early stages of the illness, he suffered from bouts of lethargy, sleepiness and loss of coordination. I was one of the lucky ones though in that it was over thirty years later when I contracted that different strain of encephalitis, and medical science had in that time advanced beyond anything previously imagined. I thus was fine after a six week spell in hospital being pumped full of medication, eventually making a complete recovery.
The acting in Awakenings is first class, from the whole cast, but my own personal awards are shared equally between Robert De Niro who was utterly, mind-blowingly wonderful as encephalitis victim Leonard, and Robin Williams who was truly superb as the rather shy and nervous, yet eager, very caring young doctor who has made a major medical breakthrough.
I find most films where the topic revolves around illness to be overly mawkish and soppy...to the point where they become embarrassing...but Awakenings for the most part is intelligently and realistically presented. It is true that there are a couple of brief moments within where the music goes all gooey and what happens on screen comes over as borderline sick-bucket sentimental, but those moments are few and far between, almost being lost within an otherwise down to earth, sensible film.
Despite Awakenings being issued with a U certificate, there is one single instance within the dialogue where the F word is used, and it is very noticeable as it is shouted, but at the end of the day it is up to parents as to whether they are comfortable allowing their children to watch a film of this nature. More importantly, I personally feel that some of the behaviour displayed by Leonard at certain points in the film could unnerve more sensitive children, and perhaps that issue should be taken into consideration far up above a single expletive being present in the dialogue, when deciding if Awakenings is suitable for the little ones to watch. Also, the film has a very adult theme running throughout, which may not be of interest to people under a certain age.
Awakenings is worth watching in itself, even if you have no interest in the medical and patient behaviour aspects, purely because of the commanding performances from both Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The music throughout is quite gentle....soft piano interspersed with light orchestration, but we are treated to a quick blast of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze and The Zombies' Time Of The Season.
All in all, this is an interesting and absorbing film with a zero boredom factor, and for those (like myself) who are truly turned off by heart-rending mawkishness, the couple of tiny little bits which rear their head are easily ignored. My recommendation is....watch it! I don't think you'll be disappointed.
To close this review on a light note, whilst watching Awakenings, there are various points where some scenes between Robert De Niro (Leonard) and Robin Williams (Dr. Malcolm Sayer) had me wondering how many re-takes they had to do, as I envisage the pair of them collapsing with laughter. Also, it is worth mentioning that the true story originally written by Dr. Oliver Sacks is about his own experience, but his name in both the book and the film has been fictionalised and changed to Dr. Malcolm Sayer.
At the time of writing, Awakenings can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.57 to £195.00 <<<< what???
Used: from £6.98 to £17.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
It takes a lot for a film to keep my attention. I'm a member of Lovefilm and so I get a lot of films through each month but rarely does a film catch my attention right at the beginning and keep it right through to the end. This, however, did just that. I'm a massive fan of films based on true stories. I don't know if it's because knowing it's true makes it hit that much closer or because true stories reach a deeper level that fictional films just can't quite get to but either way this film didn't disappoint.
The stars of this film are:
* Robin Williams
* Robert De Niro
* John Heard
* Penelope Ann Miller
* Max von Sydow
* Julie Kavner
This film is based in 1969 and in a chronic hospital in the Bronx. Dr. Sayer (Robin Williams) is a new doctor that the hospital has hired to work with catatonic patients. He later finds that these patients have a link - they all survived encephalitis several years ago. From here he therorises that maybe their symptoms are like those experienced by Parkinson's patients except emphasised to the point that it effectively "turns them to stone." Therefore he tries them on a new drug, synthetic dopamine, that has proved to be successful in Parkinson's patients, to see if this would also help with these patients. You'll have to watch the film to find out if he was successful!
This film was nominated for 3 Oscars
* Best Actor in a Leading Role for Robert De Niro (playing Leonard Lowe)
* Best Picture
* Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
In my opinion it more then deserved these nominations. Both Robin Williams and Robert De Niro were very convincing in their roles. I love films that make me think and that I can connect with in some way, this film had that right from the very beginning. This is probably because I've had a lot of contact with care homes in a professional capacity and therefore could relate to that side of the film as well as the human, emotional side but I would say this film would have been just as good had that connection not been there.
It's run time is 1 hour and 55 minutes and in those two hours it had me thinking, laughing, crying and happy for the characters - sometimes all at the same time! I feel that this movie also has a moral that can be summed up in one simple quote "The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and that is what needs to be nourished with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter; this is what we'd forgotten. The simplest things." That line spoke a lot to me and will be something I carry with me for a long time.
I love dramas, real life stories, films that make me think and films that can reach me emotionally. This film ticks all those buttons and so if you also like these kinds of films or even just one of those things then I can't recommend this film highly enough. If that kind of film isn't for you then this may not be something you'd enjoy but it may be something worth at least renting anyway as this really is a powerful, moving story that'll make you think about many areas of your life.
I brought the DVD from play.com at £5.99. The film is 1 hour and 55 minutes, and although it may start of slow and without the full flavour, it soon gradually begins to transform into a meaningful adventure.
The DVD encompasses filmographies, a theatrical trailer, Behind the scenes features, scene selections and Interactive Menus which are amongst the joy of the price, as they give scope to the story at large and provide a framework for the characters, the plot and how the script works. The additional features are an extra bonus, as they provide insight if you do not completely acknowledge or understand the main highlights of the film.
I fell in love with this film when I watched it during the 1990's for the first time. I bought the DVD in 2004 and watched it thereafter for my own pleasure. It is still a film that I very much enjoy, even if I haven't watched it for years.
Primarily the film is a reflection of human nature. The film acts as a gateway to illustrate how psychological changes can affect the spirit of a person. In this respect, the psychological change is the drug dosage on the patients in the mental ward that is being experimented to create a new reality.
The script reflects human life as it combines the strengths and weaknesses of a person showcased to the world after they have been temporarily healed of their mental disturbances. This is just like a baby being born and a child learning to live in the world with a pure heart, the same is shown for the adult which in this case is Robert De Niro.
The script is not over emphasised, and does not over dramatise the characters in any way, even though the scenes may be perceivable as unimaginable at times because of their sense of perfected encounters, but that just shows how great of a performance the film is and how the characters revolve around the main thesis. Overall the film highlights an important message, the willingness to live and appreciate life as you are, for what it is, no matter where you are in life.
This movie is very enlightening and will touch your heart, especially since it is based on a true story about a real life neurologist named Oliver Sacks who makes some pretty amazing discoveries to help his catatonic patients.
Robin Williams does an excellent job playing Sacks's counterpart Dr. Malcolm Sayer in this heartwarming movie. Dr. Sayer is employed at a psychiatric hospital in the Bronx during the late 1960's where he is employed to look after the extremely catatonic patients. During his work with this till this point unresponsive patients he begins trying some new innovative methods to get his patients to respond.
Dr. Sayer develops a new drug he calls L-DOPA to treat these catatonic patients that actually begins working. Dr. Sayer is given permission to test this new experimental drug on one of his patients named Leonard Lowe, played by Robert DeNiro, who has been catatonic since he was a young child. When Sayer starts giving this drug to this patient, Leonard actually begins responding to certain stimuli. Leonard progresses further and further everyday until he is finally completely alert and aware of his surroundings. He now has the ability to converse and move. This is obviously a major discovery in medical history.
Since the drug is so promising, Sayer receives permission to give his other patients the drug and they all soon are alert and aware as Leonard is. However, there are some unexpected side effects to this amazing drug that makes Sayer question the drug for further use.
This movie is very innovative and extremely entertaining especially since it is a true story. It will touch your heart as it has mine.
Awakenings is a little masterpiece of a film, that I discovered late one night while channel surfing. I was immediately taken back by the depth of the film and purchased the DVD for a very low price on Amazon the following day.
The film stars Robert De Niro and Robin Williams and is based on a non-fictional book written by neurologist Oliver Sacks. Awakenings follows Dr Malcolm Sayer who takes up a post at a hospital in New York. The Doctor played perfectly by Robin Williams, discovers some of his patients - who survived the 1916 sleeping sickness epidemic can be helped to awaken from their existence as living statues (Encephalitis) through the use of an experimental drug known as L-Dopa. One patient called Leonard (De Niro) is awoken after being in a coma like state for thirty years. Leonard is transformed into a normal man and even falls in love. Encourage by this Dr Sayer sets about 'awakening' the other patients.
I found the film to be moving and powerful with the ability to make you question how you value the life of others. Awakenings is absorbing and very involving, and you can't help become gripped by the emotion and strength of the story. The acting throughout really is fantastic. Both Robin Williams and Robert De Niro are at their best and offer inspiring and tear jerking performances. Standards from other cast members is also note worthy. Especially the interaction between Leonard and his mother, which is realistic and powerful. The setting of the hospital itself was perfect and seems right.
Beautiful and completely engrossing offering a great and moving ending, it's hard to find anything to fault with Awakenings (other than the lack of special features on the DVD). So if you haven't seen this film I strongly suggest that you purchase it...soon.
You can currently buy Awakenings on Amazon.co.uk for £4.98.
(I'm a reviewer on Amazon, and some my reviews are copied from there to dooyoo. Please feel free to check out my Amazon profile under my real name of Mr Andrew M Kerr.)
In 1969 dr malcolm sayer played by robin williams began working at bainbridge hospital, he discoveres a group of people who survived the 1916 sleeping sickness epidemic who the rest of the world seems to have either forgotten about or just simply given up hope on.
The sleeping sickness virus turned its victims into lifeless statues
Dr sayer experiments with drugs and new techniques to bring these people back to normal functioning human beings, during his quest to this he also opens himself up to his own sleepyness when it comes down to human affection and friendships.
This is a beautifully moving film based on a true story that will be sure to have you hooked right from the start and if thats not enough to tempt you robin williams is a brilliant actor, one of the best in my oppinion.
If you havent seen this film it is an absolute must.
A good film is one where you cannot drag yourself away, where you don't notice the things going on outside of the TV screen and you can't help but feel a churning in your gut as you proceed to feel the raw emotion of the characters.
I'm not one for soppy films, I hate anything that contains a massive amount of violence without reason, and I dislike anything that lacks any sort of plot. But this film is different, this film grabbed my attention and brought me into the story at the expense of Dooyoo... only football matches have succeeded at this in the past.
Whilst sat on my now beloved Dooyoo, the Mrs. was flicking through the film channels on Sky. Nothing seemed worth watching, but the Mrs. enjoys her films so plumped for one anyway. Indeed, having never heard of awakenings, she was a little reserved about it. I continued tapping away on my keyboard.
The film started, the music came in and I turned to see Robin Williams, a guaranteed funnyman. But the sky blub described this as a 'serious film'. Would this possibly work? My interest was only partially aroused.
As the story began to progress, we saw a young boy, clearly straight A's throughout school, suddenly starting to have problems with involuntary movement of his hands. As he was writing his name, his hand would tail off and go in a line down the page. Unable to control his movements, the heart strings begin to get pulled at his frustrations. Now I was off the PC and sitting firmly in my seat.
The story then jumps, and we see Robin Williams as a doctor who has always performed research, but in his desperation for a job, and the hospitals desperation for doctors, he receives a job helping patients in 'the garden'. Whey do they call it the garden? 'Because these people are so far gone, all we do is feed and water'. And what a hospital it is, with hardly anyone who can move any part of their body themselves. Totally catatonic.
Robin Williams refuses to accept that this is uncurable, and goes in search of a cure, naturally against the 'you'll never succeed' opinions of his seniors and fellow doctors. And so it begins. Can he find a cure? Can he prove to everyone that these people are actually human and not dead inside? And can he 'wake them up'?
Throughout the film, I found myself totally engrossed. I was always wondering what the next part was, never able to tell if his experiments would work. Always feeling for the patients as an emotional roller coaster unfolds. Towards one part, I even found myself close to tears as I watched the unfolding events.
A collection of Catatonic patients in a hospital can't even move themselves and rely on their carers for everything. Can Robin Williams figure it out and wake them up? And if they wake up, will things ever be the same? Working against the heirarchy, Robin Williams has to persuade the establishment that these patients are human beings and have thoughts and minds. Then he has to ersuade them he can bring them back....
The plot is the be-all and end-all in this film, and is one of the most moving stories ever told. To make it even more thought provoking, it's based on a true story about real patients...
OK, so the best of brilliant plots can be ruined by poor quality acting, but there is no denying that the cast used for this film were very well selected. Robin Williams takes on a serious role, deviating from his usually comedy roles, and it works superbly. As the doctor with feelings, Robin Williams turns on a superb display. No funny voices or crack one-liners, but he fits the role superbly.
As the main patient we see Robert De Niro playing Leonard. Leonard is one of the youngest patients in the hospital and is the young boy we see at the start. He has family so it makes trials easier, as they can give permission. But can Leonard be woken up? If he wakes up, is he going to be glad he did? Will he still have his mind? Will he remember anything or know what life is all about? All thought provoking questions that are acted superbly.
As for the rest of the cast, I cannot think of any character who wasn't played well. The other patients stuck to their roles well, played with realism and effect. This is difficult to achieve when you are supposed to be catatonic, so my hats off to them all
THE GRAPHICS/VISUAL EFFECTS:
This film doesnt call for large explosions or fantastic special effects, but the necssary is there. The settings are just right, the hospital looks just right, and the realism is there. I've seen so many hospital films/programmes with unrealistic settings and lots of beeping machines for the case of them being there, but this is different.
The setting of a boring hospital adds to the superb overall effect of watching the film, and the lack of special effects ensures that the film isnt ruined by effects for the sake of effects.
I had to check this out as I watched it on Sky so paid £40 for my subscription and probably about £1 for the film given how much the household makes use of it. It's staying on regularly over the next month as well, so those who have sky movies can just watch it on there.
Should you wish to purchase the VHS version, you are £9.99 in HMV in Dundee and about the same online. They were selling the DVD version at £12.99, but I found it cheaper in a specialist shop in one of the shopping centres for £10.99.
A superb film with a superb plot, excellent acting and a real heart-wrentcher. Those who might be put off thinking this film will be worthless without big explosions, I challenge you to watch this film. It isnt a chick-flick, but it plays on the emotions and will tear even Arnold Schwarzenegger from his unemotional state.
The only thing I would say is that it should be watched before letting your children see it. Some of the storylines are quite upsetting, and children may be confused and upset, especially with the way the film comes towards its climax. If they dont understand it, they will be confused. If they do understand it then they may well become extremely upset. I have declined letting my two older children watch this.
WATCH THIS FILM IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE FILM THIS YEAR!
Imagine living in a state of nothingness, where no one can reach you, and where most of the world has written you off as a vegetable. Imagine having no-one that actually believes you have worth. This film is an interesting one, and one that I have on video and will keep in my library, because it is about the forgotten people.
Based on a book by Oliver Sacks, I believe that the direction of this movie is good, because the pictures that it conjures up upon our screens is one of reality, and the don't care less attitude that doctors and hospitals face when having a ward full of patients that they seemingly can do nothing for, nor reach, and have arrived at that stage where they feel there will be no improvement in the health of patients.
Taking the film scenario a step further, what is interesting is that Robin Williams plays one of what I believe is his best role, the role of a doctor, who has worked in research for the whole of his career, goes for an interview at a hospital and is actually shocked that the patients that he will be dealing with will be live ones.
The attitude of the hospital is that "It's almost the same" as working in research since there is little response from these patients who suffered following an encephalitis epidemic which left them in a state of nothingness.
The film is worthy of looking at from time to time, in that it reminds us as human beings that sometimes you need to look further than the surface in order to find answers, and it is the search that makes the film a spectacular feat and a test of human endurance and understanding.
Without giving away too much, the story that unfolds is one that shows sentiments and fears that would prevail in cirumstances such as these, and the cleverness of the direction as well as sincerity of the actors, including an outstanding performance by De Niro, this really is a film for a afternoon viewing, although the subject matter to my mind is better viewed by adults, even though the age limit put on the film is 12. I am not sure that children of 12 years of age would be able to appreciate the subtlety nor the adult nature of the film as much as those who have lived a longer time, and have more experience of life and its disappointments and ups and downs.
If you like drama at its best, then this really is worth viewing. Directed by Penny Marshall sympathetically and cleverly, the story takes on a realistic approach to a difficult subject without making it boring or stilted.
No endings that I am prepared to give away here, but a film that merits watching and enjoying and although it dates from 1990, one that still lives up to expectations, and is enjoyable and has not dated.
Watch it. You will not be disappointed.
Yet another brilliant film acted out by two brilliant actors! Together Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams envoke hope joy laughter and tears. As a doctor working in a hospice, Williams comes accross DeNiro a patient of many years who has existed in a catatonic state since his late teens. Having stumbled upon what appears to be acure Williams is able to wake DeNiro from this state but with sad consequences. Unable to cope with his sudden adult life and frustrated by the limitations placed upon him, DeNiro goes in to a downward spiral. The medication was not a pernmanent cure and he and the other patients soon return to the state of catatonic trance. Although a long film the length is merely a reflection of the depth of the story line. It takes a while to get going but the attention to detail adds to the emotional charge. If anyone has ever been effected by illness this film is a brilliant portrait of the Doctors' frustration, the families anguish and the patients' despair. A must watch film but definately a weepie!
Robin Williams plays a doctor, Robert de Niro plays a patient. Both are brilliant. Williams used to cut worms and wants to climb up the career-ladder. He gets another job as a doctor in a special clinic. There he observes the patients and discovers that some have the same symptoms. They are in sort of a coma but with intact reflexes. Williams experiments with medicaments. One of the patients awakes. Finally de Niro awakes as well. All functions are normal, they just have been in a sort of sleep. All patients try to make up the lost years and Williams tries to get support from his bosses - without a lot of luck. Plenty of touching and some funny scenes happen, until the first patient falls back into the coma. De Niro is aware that he will fall into the coma as well and asks Williams to film hin in the final stages to collect material for future treatment uses. End of the film is, de Niro is back in coma. This film is based on a true story about a relative unknown illness which happened some decades ago. The performances of both main actors are brilliant. This is a very touching film and leaves a heavy lump in your throat...
Based on the acclaimed book by neurologist Oliver Sacks, director Penny Marshall's hit 1990 drama Awakenings stars Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer. Sayer is a neurologist who discovers that the drug L-Dopa can be used to "unlock" patients in a mental hospital from the mysterious sleeping sickness that has left them utterly immobilized. Leonard (Robert De Niro) is one such patient who awakens after being in a comatose state for 30 years, leaving Sayer to guide Leonard in adjusting to the world around him. Penelope Ann Miller costars as the daughter of another patient, with whom Leonard falls tenuously in love. Earning Oscar nominations for best picture, actor and screenplay, this moving fact-based drama was a hit with critics and audiences alike. --Jeff Shannon