Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1990. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Parkes/Lasker productions. Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on the book by Oliver Sacks. Cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek. Produced by Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes. Music by Randy Newman. Production Design by Anton Furst. Costume Design by Cynthia Flynt. Film Editing by Battle Davis, Gerald B. Greenberg. Academy Awards 1990. Golden Globe Awards 1990. National Board of Review Awards 1990. New York Film Critics Awards 1990.
Dr. Oliver Sacks’ autobiographical account of his years dealing with comatose patients makes for absorbing viewing in this touching, intelligent film. Sacks (Robin Williams) is presented with a room full of patients who all suffered during an encephalitis epidemic and fell into comas from which they have yet to awaken. Sacks’ research provides the possibility of a medication that will awaken them, though what happens next is impossible to imagine. Robert De Niro is excellent as one patient in particular who is revived to the world around him and decides to live it up as much as he can, just in case it doesn’t last. Penny Marshall emphasizes personal triumphs and deep characterizations in place of the kind of schmaltz that would become more of a habit in Patch Adams, and it all works extremely well.