Imagine being trapped in your own body and mind with little to no hope of escaping.
Imagine not being able to communicate with other people around you including your loved ones!
Imagine that everyone sees you as already being dead inside, but you are very much alive.
This movie, which is based on a true story, shows just how scary and mysterious the human body can be. It portrays the frustration and desperation that can be present when modern medicine can’t give an explanation or a lasting solution to a debilitating illness to either the patient or the patient’s loved ones.
Dr. Malcolm Sayer , a neurologist (Robin Willams) arrives at a state hospital in hopes of attaining a position in neuroscience research. To his dismay, he finds that the job that he is applying for is a position as a clinical neurologist where he would have to be working one-on-one with living patients. In the beginning, this proved to be a huge shock for the doctor being as his previous “patients” had been earthworms.
As time progresses, Dr. Sayer begins to realize that many patients at the hospital shared common symptomotology. His enthusiasm for research drove him to investigate the patients that other doctors had set aside as being chronic and hopeless. In working with these patients, Dr. Sayer discovers something truly shocking. He discovers that these men and women were truly alive inside-just imprisoned within themselves by their illness. Attacking every angle, Dr. Sayer tries desperately to release these patients from their internal prison.
Dr. Sayer finally learns about a new drug that is being used on patients with Parkinson’s. He manages to convince the hospital to let him test this drug on at least one patient. They hesitantly agreed. The first patient that this drug is administered to is Robert Deniro’s character Leonard. The drug finally has an effect, and Leonard is “awakened” from his dark sleep. Soon, the drug that was tested on Leonard was then given to all of the patients in that hospital who had the same mysterious disease. They too awakened, and were released from their internal prison. However, the drug’s amazing effects do not last, and it is Leonard that we are able to see that the drug is not a cure. He begins to deteriorate and eventually ends up exactly where he began-as incapacitated.
Robert Deniro performance in this movie was truly masterful. As an audience, you are truly experience what it is like to wake up and realize that you have missed out on huge chunk of your life-your loved ones are either old or dead, and you are totally lost in a new world. His performance brings both joy and tremendous sadness. Joy because you realize that he was able to at least join the world one more time; sadness because you realize the limitations of modern medicine.