Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Film Review: AWAKENINGS (1990)

Awakenings_poster Director: Penny Marshall Running time: 115 mins (approx) Certification (UK): 12 Genre: Drama

UK Release date: 15th March 1991 Watched on Sky+ Sunday 27th March 2011.


This is a heart-warming tale about a doctor and his work to find a cure for his patients who are stuck in a catatonic state. There are some great performances and it has many ups and downs along the way. It is based on a book by Oliver Sacks, a true story which will play at your heartstrings at times. More of my thoughts later, here’s a brief summary first (summary haters and those that don’t wish to know anything about the plot please help get Leonard back into bed while I write the next paragraph).


Dr. Malcolm Sayer has always worked in research because he doesn’t really get on with people. He has to take a job at a hospital where he has no choice but to work with the patients. There he meets, amongst his patients, Leonard Lowe, who has been in a catatonic state for thirty years. With the help of his assistant, Eleanor Costello, Dr. Sawyer carries out a series of tests to discover just what is wrong with him. He eventually discovers it is to do with an encephalitis epidemic back in the 1920’s and it is now the late 60’s. Convinced he can find as cure, reads up on all the current medications and finds an experimental drug that might do the trick. His boss, Dr. Kaufman, will only let him try it on one patient, he chooses Leonard and thus begins the awakenings… but will it last, and what are the consequences? I’ll have to leave it there so as not to be beaten by the Spoiler Police.


This is a really well made film with a beautiful score by Randy Newman, enhanced with many songs, both old and new. Great performances all round, particularly from Robert De Niro as Leonard Lowe and Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, who both went and observed Oliver Sacks and his patients prior to making this film, and it showed. I also have to mention Julie Kavner, it’s nice to see the voice of Marge Simpson as a real person for a change. Honourable mentions also go to; Ruth Nelson as Mrs. Lowe (Leonard’s mother), John Heard as Dr, Kaufman and it was also nice to see a brief cameo from Max von Sydow as Dr. Peter Ingham.


Although it starts off a little schmaltzy, this film grows into an engrossing drama with engaging characters and an interesting plot. There are hints of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) here and there, but I can forgive that, after all, it’s not a bad film to be compared with. Over all, it’s pretty good and well worth a viewing… Recommended.

My score: 7.6/10


(RT = Rotten Tomatoes) IMDb Page: RT Page: Trailer:

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