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
Awakenings follows the story of two men and their will to never give up. Leonard Low (Robert De Niro) fell victim to an encephalitis epidemic at a young age and has been left in a catatonic state for thirty years. His new doctor, Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is determined to to find a cure that will revive his patients.
A new drug, L-Dopa, offers hope to the patients. Dr. Sayer ignores the criticisms of his more pessimistic colleagues and drives forward with the drug. During the summer of 1969 the patients of Dr. Sayer awaken and come back to the present after being frozen in time. Led by Leonard the group starts to enjoy life to the fullest.
Robert Di Niro and Robin Williams give one of their best performances in this film. Di Niro in particular must have done a lot of research for his role to get down the symptoms of his ailment. Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) penned this beautiful script, his second screenplay, and director Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own) brings the story to life.
Unfortunately good things don't last forever, and the L-Dopa cure fails to work over time. Leonard and Dr. Sayer both fight this fact, but they have to come to terms with the limitations. This doesn't detour Leonard in the end though and he is happy to have experienced life again. It is heartbreaking experience, but Dr. Sayer takes Leonard's words to heart and chooses to be alive.
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