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Awakenings (1990)

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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.

Director:

Penny Marshall

Writers:

Oliver Sacks (book) (as Oliver Sacks M.D.), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
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Popularity
2,006 ( 1,606)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Leonard Lowe
Robin Williams ... Dr. Malcolm Sayer
Julie Kavner ... Eleanor Costello
Ruth Nelson ... Mrs. Lowe
John Heard ... Dr. Kaufman
Penelope Ann Miller ... Paula
Alice Drummond ... Lucy
Judith Malina ... Rose
Barton Heyman ... Bert
George Martin ... Frank
Anne Meara ... Miriam
Richard Libertini ... Sidney
Laura Esterman Laura Esterman ... Lolly
Dexter Gordon ... Rolando
Jayne Haynes 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 January 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Despertares See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$417,076, 25 December 1990, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$52,096,475
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Based on a nonfiction book by Oliver Sacks, with the character of Sayer based closely on Sacks. 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. Peter Ingham: Most died during the acute stage of the illness, during a sleep so deep they couldn't be roused. A sleep that in most cases lasted several months. Those who survived, who awoke, seemed fine, as though nothing had happened. Years went by - five, ten, fifteen - before anyone suspected they were not well... they were not. I began to see them in the early 1930's - old people brought in by their children, young people brought in by their parents - all of them complaining they weren't themselves ...
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Peep Show: Sectioning (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Sing, Sing, Sing
Written by Louis Prima
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User Reviews

 
A Fascinating and Moving Story
18 February 2005 | by clawpackSee all my reviews

Awakenings is the most emotionally moving film I have ever seen. It delves deeply into one of the worst human fears, losing the ability to move and function, but it's never forced or manipulative, and there's no heavy-handed message or moral. It's just a fascinating story that's beautifully told.

The acting is as good as you will ever see. Robert DeNiro deftly handles all the emotional and physical challenges of his role, and Robin Williams demonstrates convincingly that he is an actor, not just a comedian. Williams is perhaps a bit too nerdy at first, but he captures perfectly all the hope, fear, exhilaration, and anguish that a doctor in that situation must be experiencing. Awakenings is based on actual people and events, and, to me at least, real events are always more powerful than even the best fiction.

Awakenings had big-name talent and Oscar nominations, but I don't think it ever had a big box office or became a popular video rental. That's a shame. I like escapist fare as much as the next guy, but once in a while, everyone should see a movie that you will remember and think about for a very long time. Awakenings deserves to be at the top of your list of movies to see.


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