Genre Grandeur – Awakenings (1990) – Movie Reviews 101

For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Medical Dramas here’s a review of Awakenings (1990) by Darren of Movie Reviews 101.

Thanks again to Patty of for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s genre has been chosen by Todd of The Forgotten Filmz Podcast and we will be reviewing our favorite 80’s teen films

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Sep by sending them to

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Todd!

Let’s see what Darren thought of this movie:


Director: Penny Marshall

Writer: Steven Zaillian (Screenplay) Oliver Sacks (Book)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, Ruth Nelson, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller


Plot: The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them.

Tagline – There is no such thing as a simple miracle.

Runtime: 2 Hours 1 Minute


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Brilliant


Story: Awakenings starts when Dr Malcolm Sayer (Williams) takes a job in the psychiatric hospital in hope of conducting research, but only been given a clinic role, until he makes a startling discovery about a group of catatonic patients, who have all suffered from encephalitis during the epidemic.

When Malcolm starts to see minor changes in the patients with environmental changes, he looks to an experimental drug, where he is allowed to try on only one patient, Leonard Lowe (De Niro), in which he gets amazing results, giving him a new lease of life.


Thoughts on Awakenings


Characters – Dr Malcolm Sayer wants to work in neurologist which sees him taking a role at a psychiatric hospital, believing he could continue his research, but ends up being a clinic role. He wants the job and soon makes a discovery about a string of the patients there, that they are not a catatonic as they seem and pushes for research to be done, here learns that he could help them and gives them a new lease for life. Leonard Lowe is a man that has been catatonic for years, he is given a drug which brings him out of the state, where he wants to try and return to his life, one he never got to truly live. Eleanor is one of the nurses at the hospital that helps Malcolm get his ideas through, one who cares about the patients more than the other nurses seem to.

PerformancesRobin Williams is brilliant here, he doesn’t bring any of his humorous side, showing that when he needed to bring the serious side only, he could excel like the best of them. Robert De Niro is wonderful to watch, he shows the different states his character goes through and the pain of lost time. Julie Kavner brings the middle ground between doctor and patient to life, bringing the human connection to the film.

StoryThe story here follows a forward thinking doctor that takes a role in a psychiatric hospital where he makes a discovery that could help the patients in the hospital, one that could cure them from a catatonic state they have been in for years. This story shows us just how medical science would have been used to try and help people, how people would take a chance to find a cure, rather than just give up on people. We see how Malcolm wanted to make a difference to so many lives, how he had to fight through monetary problems just for a chance to give these patients another chance. This will show the successes and the failures along the way, proving that progress will need to happen down different paths.

SettingsThe film keeps most of the story inside the hospital, showing us just how the doctors and patients saw life change with the new improvement in the patients.

Scene of the Movie –
The big day out.

That Moment That Annoyed Me This is a flawless movie, nothing.

Final Thoughts This is a truly brilliant movie that has two of the greatest actors in leading roles, that carry the film to new levels, show the kindness in humans and just how difficult understand treatments and disease can be on people.


Overall: Outstanding Medical Drama.

Rating 5/5

2 thoughts on “Genre Grandeur – Awakenings (1990) – Movie Reviews 101

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur August Finale – The Sleeping City (1950) – Caftan Woman | MovieRob

  2. Awakenings owns my heart. To be able to communicate with loved ones whom you thought was beyond your grasp; to give people that chance at life is a gift. And all gifts, or miracles as you say, are still rooted in our all too real world. Indeed, it is a brilliant movie and a testament to the talent of all especially Ms. Marshall and Mr. Williams.


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