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Awakenings

Year: 1990
Director: Penny Marshall
Cast: Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner
One of the few movies to make me cry, and I don't cry in movies easily.

Robin Williams proved he was an effective dramatic actor early on several times, always falling back into the schmaltzy Patch Adams-style of film that are his stock in trade.

In Awakenings,, it's almost as if the two leads decided to swap roles. Each is tailor made for the actor who didn't play it - the mentally disabled but lovable Leonard was played by De Niro, whose air of authority would have been perfectly suited to William's role of Dr Sayer.

Likewise, Williams self-effacing and innate likeability would have suited the role of Leonard perfectly. And yet, both men played their roles to such perfection they fit them like gloves.

Dr Malcolm Sayer (the real life doctor upon which the true story is based) starts working with a group of catatonic patients, none of whom speak, react or can do anything for themselves. Having developed a new treatment he believes will bring them back, he has the most success with Leonard Lowe.

Leonard gradually comes back to life, and it's the scene where he meets his mother for the first time under real circumstances, puts his arms out and says 'Mama' just like a child that will bring you to tears. If it doesn't, you're probably catatonic yourself.

Quiet tragedy unfolds as Dr Sayer finds he has to increase the dosage of the medicine to retain the effect, and soon learns that he would have to increase it to levels more than the bodies of the patients would survive to maintain their consciousness.

Leonard slowly disappears back into the abyss from which he emerged, a standout scene in the film being the one where he receives a visitor despite having uncontrollable shakes - De Niro doing an astonishing and courageous job.

As touching a film as was ever made, which in my opinion cemented Williams' reputation as a master of drama.

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