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Awakenings (1990)

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No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 0

audience

89

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 53,750

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on a true story as related by neurologist Oliver Sacks, Awakenings stars Robin Williams as the Sacks counterpart, here named Dr. Malcolm Sayer. Something of a klutz and naif, Dr. Sayer takes a job at a Bronx psychiatric hospital in 1969. Here he's put in charge of several seemingly catatonic patients who, under Sayer's painstaking guidance, begin responding to certain stimulati. Apprised of the efficacy of a new drug called L-DOPA in treating degenerative-disease victims, Sayer is given

PG-13,

Drama

Aug 28, 2001

Columbia Pictures

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August 13, 2014:
Robin Williams' 10 Best Movies
Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Robin Williams won five Grammys, four Golden...

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All Critics (39) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (4) | DVD (3)

Williams gives his best "straight" performance, shorn of all his marvelous manic vaudeville. The man he plays here is not a performer, which he was even in Dead Poets Society, but simply a man.

August 15, 2014 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

a curiously-underloved film... Awakenings will get a re-evaluation in the wake of Williams' passing, and that's great. It's just a tragedy it took a tragedy to precipitate it.

August 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

Maybe life affirming, but hardly life-changing.

January 15, 2012 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

Nonfunny Robin Williams role in moving story.

December 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A beautifully moving, life-affirming true story.

July 5, 2007
FulvueDrive-in.com

A potentially intriguing story, based on the actual experiences of Dr. Sacks, gets a characteristically middling, sentimental and uplifting from director Penny Marshall.

February 1, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Tour-de-force performances and one memorable storyline

March 10, 2005
Moviehole

I remember this film, which I saw 13 years ago, as a squishy article redeemed by two strong performances; I am not inclined to go back for a second opinion.

November 2, 2004
Nick's Flick Picks

Moving and over-sentimental - but Marshall's best film.

June 5, 2004 | Comment (1)
Shadows on the Wall

Solid medical drama. Williams is terrific in a straight role.

May 23, 2004
Nitrate Online

Utter goo.

August 14, 2003 | Comments (2)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Moving and well-acted.

May 20, 2003
Needcoffee.com

The beginning of Robin Williams' belief that being 'nice' equals cinematic brilliance. A mixed bag that received more acclaim than it should have.

March 25, 2003
Oz
Hollywood Bitchslap

A decent film that thinks it's more important than it actually is.

January 23, 2003
Flipside Movie Emporium

Pitch-perfect performances rescue a potentially melodramatic affair.

July 29, 2002
eFilmCritic.com

Celebrates the deep down joy of life and the healing exchange that can take place between doctor and patient when caring rather than curing is the main emphasis.

January 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Awakenings

Based on a true story, a doctor moves to a new institution where he examines and tries to cure schizophrenic patients who are very far gone. Once he comes across a patient that he feels connected to (Robert De Niro), he starts giving him extra doses of medicine until he is able to walk and speak normally once again. Many incredible things happen along the way and this film is elevated by a very down-to-earth performance by Robin Williams, and Robert De Niro gives one of the best performances of his career as the patient. This film is beautifully written and heartfelt to the bare bones in every way possible. Each character gives you something to be so thankful in life that you have. "Awakenings" is a very moving picture with powerful acting, great direction, and a theme that will have you in tears. One of my favourites, it is such an incredible film.
August 17, 2014
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Touching...but not really moving. Well-acted.
June 7, 2013
cchclaw

Super Reviewer

Awakening to the world after thirty years, lost youth, the incomprehensible loss of who you were in contrast to who you could be in the future, is a heavy subject matter. Luckily we have the extraordinary efforts of actors Robin Williams and Robert De Niro to encapsulate the spectrum of human behavioral science and emotion. The aspects of the film that make it true are for certain the most astounding, drawing on the experiences of neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, who worked with catatonic patients from the 1917-1928 encephalitis epidemic. What is really very disturbing about the film, is watching fictionalized Dr. Malcolm Sayer come to the conclusion that these patients are in fact only sedate, and have the mental faculties to make a full recovery. This is both good news for their future state, and devastatingly horrifying to think of their mental prison for the past thirty years, trying to communicate with the broader world but being limited by their own body. We watch the good doctor bring back Leonard Lowe (De Niro), a child at the time of his crisis, and now a full grown man with the faculties of an infant. His transformation is subdued, nothing overall astounding about his awakening, since no one seems able to witness them when they happen. He wakes from sleep, recognizes that he's back with the tender joy of a child, and remembers the death of his former state, but not the events of the past thirty years. As the other patients also awaken, and their journey begins, we're fed the horror of wasted life, the principle of the film to drive you into living when others cannot. The premise was executed in a fairly original way, the acting was sincere and realistic for the otherworldly circumstances that developed from it, and everything is believable and neither sappy nor unenjoyable. It's only the longwinded approach to certain sections that keeps me from enjoying it through and through, the lack of true depression at the very end, only the possibility for Sayer to finally live now that he's seen the worst of unused potential. It's too bittersweet a taste for me when I've gone through the rigmarole of this film.
September 10, 2011
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

The last time I saw this was sometime in the early 1990s. but back then I didn't really get much out of it, nor do I really remember much of it. Rediscovering it recently has been a great joy

This is a remarkable and touching film that could have gone so many different ways, such as sappy melodrama, angry One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nestish anti-establishmentarianism, or what have you. There are elements of these things, but the film nicely finds a nice balance, and is probably all the better because of it.

This is a really good film, and I liked it a great deal, but I figured I would love it. That is not the case, but I'm not sure what it is that is keeping me from giving it a higher grade. Let's just call it a very high B+, because that seems like a great way to categorize it.

The performances are terrific. Again, like the film overall, the actors achieve a very nice balance, and avoid sending the wrong message, or overplaying it, espeically De niro and the other catatonics. It is so easy to make a wrong move playing a character such as that which demands sensitivity, yet still getting the point across. As Leonard, this seems to be one of De Niro's forgotten roles. That's a shame too, because he delivers a wonderful performance. Williams is also great as the doctor trying to reach him, as well as make a connection with the rest of the world, of which he has a hard time relating to. Julie Kavner is also really good as the nurse who is the closest to Williams's doctor.

This is going to sound really cynical, but it seems odd to me that this was a theatrical release. This is troubling because it seems to me like this kind of movie, if made today, would more than likely (for the most part) not be a theatrical film, and instead a tv-film for HBO or Showtime or something. I'm not knocking those productions, but it just seems sad to me that really good films like this aren't being made as much as they once seemed to.

Give this one a look, it's a heartwarming film that is touching, inspiring, yet not overbearing in its message.
The last time I saw this was sometime in the early 1990s. but back then I didn't really get much out of it, nor do I really remember much of it. Rediscovering it recently has been a great joy

This is a remarkable and touching film that could have gone so many different ways, such as sappy melodrama, angry One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nestish anti-establishmentarianism, or what have you. There are elements of these things, but the film nicely finds a nice balance, and is probably all the better because of it.

This is a really good film, and I liked it a great deal, but I figured I would love it. That is not the case, but I'm not sure what it is that is keeping me from giving it a higher grade. Let's just call it a very high B+, because that seems like a great way to categorize it.

The performances are terrific. Again, like the film overall, the actors achieve a very nice balance, and avoid sending the wrong message, or overplaying it, espeically De niro and the other catatonics. It is so easy to make a wrong move playing a character such as that which demands sensitivity, yet still getting the point across. As Leonard, this seems to be one of De Niro's forgotten roles. That's a shame too, because he delivers a wonderful performance. Williams is also great as the doctor trying to reach him, as well as make a connection with the rest of the world, of which he has a hard time relating to. Julie Kavner is also really good as the nurse who is the closest to Williams's doctor.

This is going to sound really cynical, but it seems odd to me that this was a theatrical release. This is troubling because it seems to me like this kind of movie, if made today, would more than likely (for the most part) not be a theatrical film, and instead a tv-film for HBO or Showtime or something. I'm not knocking those productions, but it just seems sad to me that really good films like this aren't being made as much as they once seemed to.

Give this one a look, it's a heartwarming film that is touching, inspiring, yet not overbearing in its message.
April 3, 2011
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Dr. Malcolm Sayer: What we do know is that, as the chemical window closed, another awakening took place; that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug - and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family.
    – Submitted by Chad E (3 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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