The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them.

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(book) (as Oliver Sacks M.D.), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Ruth Nelson ...
...
...
Paula
...
Lucy
...
Rose
Barton Heyman ...
Bert
George Martin ...
...
Miriam
...
Sidney
Laura Esterman ...
Lolly
Dexter Gordon ...
Rolando
Jayne Haynes ...
Frances
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Storyline

1969. Dr. Malcolm Sayer is hired as a clinical physician at a psychiatric hospital in the Bronx, despite he only having a research background. The job is not ideal on his side as he has difficulties relating to people which is the reason he has focused on research projects not involving human subjects, while the hospital hires him somewhat out of desperation in not finding anyone else with the qualifications who wants the job. Most of his patients are in a semi-catatonic state and are housed in what some of the orderlies coin the "garden" ward, where all they can do for the patients is water and feed them. He notices that some of the patients, despite their generally catatonic state, respond in unusual ways to certain stimuli. In doing some research, he also finds that some common bonds between these patients are that they suffered from encephalitis in the 1920s or 1930s, and that their physical states are like they have Parkinson's disease frozen in time. As such, he is able to ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

There is no such thing as a simple miracle.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

11 January 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Despertares  »

Box Office

Gross:

$52,096,475 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Penny Marshall at first wanted Bill Murray to play Leonard Lowe, who was interested in the project, but she decided against it because she didn't want audiences expecting a comedy. See more »

Goofs

When Dr Sayer first arrives at the facility he remembers to retrieve his paperwork from the car. Then he locks the door, but leaves the keys in the lock. Next he places his hand in his pocket as if pocketing the keys. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Malcolm Sayer: She borrows the will of the ball.
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Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.82 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

O Soave Fanciulla
from "La Bohème"
Written by Giacomo Puccini
Performed by Mirella Freni and Nicolai Gedda
Orchestra of the Opera House, Rome
Conducted by Thomas Schippers
Courtesy of Angel/EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc.
by arrangment with CEMA Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

 
What An Incredible Story!!
20 March 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Here's a good example of how you can still make a great modern-day movie without profanity, violence or sex.

This is an amazing story, based on fact, about about a doctor who makes great progress fighting an illness that heretofore was considered incurable. These were patients in catatonic states, and the good doctor uses an experimental drug to snap these people back to reality and to a normal life as they once had. The patients, and how they react, both before and after the medications, is really fascinating.

Robert De Niro is outstanding as one of the patients, but that's not a surprise knowing all the fine acting performances he's done over the years. Robin Williams, relatively new to dramatic acting when this came out, was also excellent in a very low-key role. Penelope Ann Miller is extremely sweet and appealing. I wish both she and Williams would do more roles like that.

With multiple viewings, I came to appreciate the minor characters in here a lot more, such as De Niro's mother, played by Ruth Nelson, whom I fondly remember in the 1945 film "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." What a treat is was to see her again and this was just two years before she died. Also, Alice Drummund as the patient known as "Lucy" was notable.

Language-wise, i's almost stunning to watch a movie which has De Niro, Williams, Miller and John Heard and not hear one profane word uttered! (The film isn't perfect, however, as some idiot decided to insert one f-word, and in a totally unnecessary circumstance.)

This is a memorable story and one I guarantee you won't forget because the subject matter is so different.


74 of 88 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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