Awakenings

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Awakenings is a 1990 American drama film based on Oliver Sacks's 1973 memoir Awakenings. It tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer and portrayed by Robin Williams who, in 1969, discovers beneficial effects of the then-new drug L-Dopa. He administered it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Leonard Lowe (played by Robert De Niro) and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonic state and have to deal with a new life in a new time.

Directed by Penny Marshall, the film was produced by Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker, who first encountered Sacks's book as undergraduates at Yale University and optioned it a few years later. Awakenings stars Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, John Heard, Ruth Nelson, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller, and Max Von Sydow. The film features a non-speaking cameo from jazz legend Dexter Gordon (who died before the film's release) who appears as a patient and then-unknowns Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Vin Diesel, and Vincent Pastore play a doctor, neurochemist, hospital orderly and a psych-ward patient, respectively.

Contents

Plot

In 1969, Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is a dedicated and caring physician at a local hospital in the New York City borough of The Bronx. After working extensively with the catatonic patients who survived the 1917-1928 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, Sayer discovers certain stimuli will reach beyond the patients' respective catatonic states; actions such as catching a ball thrown at them, hearing familiar music, and experiencing human touch all have unique effects on particular patients and offer a glimpse into their worlds. Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) proves elusive in this regard, but Sayer soon discovers that Leonard is able to communicate with him by using a Ouija board.

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