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Mental Illness Gets a Fresh Look in “Awakenings”

Awake_3 Many films about mental illness pit the patient against the system: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Frances are quintessential examples of that classic conflict. But Awakenings, based on neurologist Oliver Sacks’ landmark memoir, has a very different story to tell. Directed by Penny Marshall, this moving drama concerns a doctor who discovers a drug that can pull his patients out of catatonic states. Can he keep his patients awake permanently so that they can lead normal lives? And if he cannot, has he failed? Or does something more important and telling about the very essence of human nature take place? Contrary to what you might have guessed, Robin Williams does not play the crazy one; Robert De Niro does. Awakenings is filled with similar, small astonishments. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see Vin Diesel and jazz legend Dexter Gordon in smaller roles.

Awakenings is broadcast today, Monday January 7 at 12:45 p.m. EST 11:45C on AMC.

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