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There is no such thing as a simple miracle.

Shy neurologist Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is assigned to work with a group of catatonic patients who, ever since an epidemic of encephalitis ("sleeping sickness") decades before, have not spoken or appeared to understand anything that was going on around them. Everyone else has given up hope, but Sayer notices they have reflex reactions and believes that new medication for Parkinson's disease may help. His superiors object, but he gets permission to try it on one patient, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro). At first, there is no reaction, but soon Leonard "awakens." His transformation is so thrilling that Malcolm is easily able to get permission and funding to treat the other patients, and the results are amazing. But eventually, Leonard becomes hyperactive, angry, and ridden with tics. The medication's side effects begin to overwhelm him. Malcolm sees that he is losing Leonard, and the other patients know that it must soon happen to them, too.

Directed by Penny Marshall, Awakenings is a powerful and moving story, brilliantly acted and directed. The movie is based on the book of the same name by neurologist Oliver Sacks, who was the basis for the character Malcolm Sayer. Like Malcolm, we can all use a reminder to appreciate the pleasures of being alive, including the pleasures that require us to take risks.

Source: Nell Minow

"A beautifully moving, life-affirming true story"- Chuck O'Leary,

"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" - Stanley Kaufman, The New Republic

"One of Robin Williams' best performances"- Roger Ebert

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Directed by: 
Penny Marshall
Running Time: 
121 minutes
Robin Williams
Robert De Niro
Julie Kavner
Ruth Nelson
John Heard
Screenplay by: 
Steven Zaillian
based on the book by Oliver Sacks

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