The true story of an experimental drug trial in 1969 that allowed
long-forgotten comatose patients to awaken to full consciousness.
Directed by Penny Marshall
Written by Steven Zaillian
Starring Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner,
John Heard, Ruth Nelson, Penelope Ann Miller, Alice Drummond
Based on the book by Oliver Sacks
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Adapted Screenplay
We take so much of life for granted. Little things like taking a walk or talking to a loved one. We forget that there are people out there who are trapped inside their own mind. Their bodies have betrayed them, but they're still alive. This film tells the story of one such group of people who found a brief respite from their living hell thanks to the efforts of one man who believed he could help them. What followed was nothing short of a miracle, and though it didn't last, it remains significant nonetheless. Awakenings is a masterpiece of storytelling as well as performance, with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro both exceling in roles far outside their respective comfort zones.
In 1969, Dr. Malcolm Sayer (a stand-in for real-life Dr. Oliver Sacks) became convinced that chronic comatose patients still retained a spark of humanity within them. If that spark could be stoked, it could potentially revive them. Thanks to an experimental Parkinson's drug, Dr. Sayer was able to revive Leonard Lowe (De Niro), who had been in a vegetative state for thirty years. De Niro is unbelievable as Leonard, who is forced to adapt to a world that has moved on without him and sees him as a living science experiment. The scene where he's reunited with his mother had me in tears. But alas, the drug was not permanent, and all the patients regrettable fell back into their comatose states. We never did find out what brought them back or what made them lose it again.
Awakenings is a fantastic drama that tells an inspirational story of human endurance. The will to live is the strongest force on earth, and it exists within each and every one of us. The patients that Dr. Sayer (or Sacks) revived got a second chance at life, however brief. This film will move you, it will infuriate you, but most of all it will change your perspective on the life you have.