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 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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