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4.7 out of 5 stars118
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Awakenings is a little masterpiece of a film, that I discovered late one night while channel surfing. I was immediately taken back by the depth of the film and purchased the DVD for a very low price on Amazon the following day.

The film stars Robert De Niro and Robin Williams and is based on a non-fictional book written by neurologist Oliver Sacks. Awakenings follows Dr Malcolm Sayer who takes up a post at a hospital in New York. The Doctor played perfectly by Robin Williams, discovers some of his patients - who survived the 1916 sleeping sickness epidemic can be helped to awaken from their existence as living statues (Encephalitis) through the use of an experimental drug known as L-Dopa. One patient called Leonard (De Niro) is awoken after being in a coma like state for thirty years. Leonard is transformed into a normal man and even falls in love. Encourage by this Dr Sayer sets about 'awakening' the other patients.

I found the film to be moving and powerful with the ability to make you question how you value the life of others. Awakenings is absorbing and very involving, and you can't help become gripped by the emotion and strength of the story. The acting throughout really is fantastic. Both Robin Williams and Robert De Niro are at their best and offer inspiring and tear jerking performances. Standards from other cast members is also note worthy. Especially the interaction between Leonard and his mother, which is realistic and powerful. The setting of the hospital itself was perfect and seems right.

Beautiful and completely engrossing offering a great and moving ending, it's hard to find anything to fault with Awakenings (other than the lack of special features on the DVD). So if you haven't seen this film I strongly suggest that you purchase it...soon.
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on 15 July 2004
Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro yet again demonstrate why they are at the top of their profession. This moving, sometimes harrowing, but ever engrossing movie contains some of DeNiro's most sublte and moving work, with Williams complementing him to an equally high standard.
It offers some very poignant reminders about what life is and how even the little little things shouldn't be taken for granted.
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on 9 March 2004
This film is absolutely awesome and tells the story of how the human spirit will always survive. If you are ever feeling a little low about your profession, this will definetely give you another spark to your endeavors and how important it is to be brave with ideas about patient care. In addition it reminds physicians to treat patients as humans for in the end that is what we all are.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 September 2011
The late 60s and post encephalitis patients are roused by various doses of the drug L-Dopa. But as the patients try to come to terms with the new and alien life they are brought into, side effects starts to rear its head.

I guess it depends on your emotional state how you absorb Awakenings as a motion picture. There are those that simply believe it's an exercise in currying sentimental favour, whilst others, such as myself, believe stories such as this need to be told. Based on the novel by Oliver Sacks {Malcom Sayer played by Robin Williams} the only real cause for grumble from myself is that sadly, the film fails to fully form the shock and terror these newly roused patients must have felt. The encephalitis epidemic occurred between 1917-1928, these people got old without knowing it. It's briefly touched on with a couple of tender moments, notably thru Alice Drummond's Lucy, but the main focus of the film, perhaps not surprisingly, is the relationship between Williams' Sayer and Robert DeNiro's Leonard Lowe.

DeNiro is on full Oscar baiting tilt here {nominated but lost out to Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune} and it's a magnetic performance, tender and close to heart breaking at times. His interplay with Williams {suitably restrained} is what drives the film on, but as stated prior, at the expense of a fully formed whole. Still, director Penny Marshall and her team have gone the whole hog for the sentimental aspect, is it too forced? yes at times it is, but you would have to have been quarried from granite not to be affected by some scenes, re: a mother son reunion for example. So it's not quite the classic it not only threatened to be, but really should have been. But the central theme of learn and evolve is something that hopefully even the films detractors have taken on board.

Sweet and touching 8/10
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on 23 June 2007
Put in two great Hollywood actors; Robin Williams and Robert de Niro; A superb director, a great book by Oliver Sacks and the end product is a sure winner. Williams takes a break from being rebellious and wacky like the characters he played in Dead Poets Soceity, Good Morning Vietnam and PAtch Adams to play Dr Sayer a non- wacky doctor but rebellious anywhere due to jealous colleagues. De Niro plays Leonard Lowe his patient reduced to a catatonic state due to some condition known as encephalitis. His transformation to normality and back to his original state is one of his best performances ever. The ending is a tear jerker, and may make this film a one off viewing experience. Nevertheless, highly recommended.
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on 21 July 2008
An emotional roller coaster of a film based on a true story. A marvelous performance by Robin Williams who plays the lead performance as the brilliant Dr Malcolm Sayer, who takes up a new post at the Bainbridge Hospital and discovers a group of patients that have been in a semi-coma for several decades as a result of an epidemic many years earlier.

Using a new experimental drug he manages to awken Leonard Lowe (Robert DeNiro), who he befriends, and then all of the other patients. But is enough known about this wonder drug ?

Whilst trying to teach his patients the joys and pains of living, Dr Sawyer quickly learns that he is out of touch with his own emotions.

This is not an edge of your seat action film, but you will remained glued to the set. Yet another DeNiro gem and also one of Robin Williams finest roles. Very enjoyable, but might put a tear in the eye of some.
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on 10 August 2011
I watched "awakenings" because I am trying to watch all of the films that Robin Williams has been in, to be honest I only do this because I am somewhat obsessed with completing collections (not that this particular collection is anywhere near complete, Robin Williams has an awful lot of films).

During my quest to collect all of Robin Williams' work I have gone from an avid fan that truly believed this guy could not be in a bad movie to realising that he defiantly can. But never the less I persevere through his back catalogue and hope that I never again come across stinkers like "seize the day". I was trying to avoid seeing "awakenings" because I thought it was going to be another "seize the day".

First impressions from the poster and the trailer were not looking good I thought that this film looked terrible. But then I noticed that the film is directed by Penny Marshall "I know that name" I thought to myself, so I looked her up. Turns out she was the director of two of my all time favourite films `big' and `jumpin' jack flash' so with a new optimism I popped the dvd in the player and curiously watched as to what Penny Marshall had come up with this time.

Loosely based on a book by real-life neurologist Oliver Sacks, `Awakenings' marked the high point of a successful side career for Sacks as a chronicler of unusual medical case histories.

The film often displays the easy sentimentality typical of director Penny Marshall, which makes you feel quite warm and fuzzy. The plot is pretty typical in the sense that it pitted its heroes against mindless hospital bureaucrats in a tired effort to force a obligatory antagonist into the story, but because the film is based on true events, this plot device doesn't seem too over blown (as it so often can do in films).

The performances of stars Robin Williams and particularly Robert De Niro make it a very interesting film to watch. Cast against type, the two pros sink their teeth into their roles, Williams, as a shy genius and De Niro as a man with a teenager's mind betrayed by a collection of physical tics and twitches.

Apparently so comfortable was Williams in the doctor role that he repeatedly returned to it and played healers in numerous later films, including NINE MONTHS (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997), What Dreams May Come (1998), and Patch Adams (1998).

For me, De Niro was just a perk to this film for I watched it for Williams, I don't know why but Williams seems to do some of his best work playing a doctor and this film is no exception. But inevitably, when comparisons to `patch adams` and `good will hunting` are made `awakenings` will always end up at the bottom of the pile.
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on 1 October 2010
It's 1969 and Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) takes up a position in a New York hospital where he encounters survivors of the Sleeping Sickness epidemic that occurred decades previously. The story of one patient, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) is told in the first scene and it is his case that Dr. Sayer responds to in a new quest to have his sleeping patients react to him. After many experiments with drugs and appeals to his employers, Sayer achieves something of a miracle for his patients and the hospital when the living statues wake from their decades long sleep. This brings about tougher challenges for Sayer as he struggles to control the effects of drugs on his patients and they on him.

The events in this drama, particularly the awakenings and the aftermath some months down the line, pack an emotional punch. The new and not always happy circumstances each patient finds themselves in are hard to come to terms with, as is the great responsibility Dr. Sayer now feels for them. Leonard is now capable of feeling emotions he didn't know he had and quickly wants to learn how to be the complete adult he should be. Through it all is another kind of awakening; that of Dr. Sayer himself, who for so long buried his emotions beneath his work, they appear forgotten. As with Leonard, we see him taking steps to become complete again.

People with an aversion to sentimentality may think this film is full of it, but shouldn't be put off. I found emotions were kept in check and as someone who can't stand the sentimental, I wouldn't have this film any other way. It's of course helped by the two brilliant performances that underpin it. Williams is well known for his loud, brash characters but seems to find another level in becoming someone hidden from others. As the introverted doctor, he is very compelling. De Niro (who spent time in a mental hospital before production) is just fascinating to watch. By turns childlike and joyful, then disturbed and chaotic, I am drawn to his character from the second he shows any expression. Considering his other roles of that time (this came out the same year as Goodfellas), his range is extraordinary.

A well researched and thought provoking fact-based drama that should stay with you for a while.

* extras: behind the scenes featurette / filmographies *
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on 31 July 2009
A brilliant heartwarming film, based on the work of a doctor, and the side effects of a flu pandemic. As this is a true story it is all the more realistic. Robin Williams plays an excellent part as Dr Sachs. It is a good film to watch over and over again...
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A bit of medical gem - "Awakenings" only showed how good both Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro could be. A doctor (Williams) takes chances with groundbreaking medication and brings a patient (De Niro) back from an almost vegetative state to full lucidity (only to see him cruelly returned to that existence by the powers that be).

So it's a real bummer to find out that replacing my DVD with a BLU RAY (if you live in the UK or Europe) is a problem.

This American BLU RAY issue on Image Entertainment is REGION A LOCKED - so it won't play on our machines unless they're chipped to be 'all regions' (which few are).

Until someone ends the restrictions of Region Coding or gives this a Region B release on this side of the pond - its best avoiding an expensive mistake buying this...
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