Synopsis: Awakenings is a 1990 American drama film based on Oliver Sacks's 1973 memoir of the same title. It tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer (portrayed by Robin Williams), who, in 1969, discovered beneficial effects of the drug L-Dopa. He administered it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Leonard Lowe (played by Robert De Niro) and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonia and have to deal with a new life in a new time. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards.
Genre: Biography, Drama
Production: Columbia Pictures
  Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
121 min

1. A dusty deserted street -saloon, livery stable, sunset.

Only there is something unsettling about it all. The colors

are too muted and the angles not quite in perspective. Pulling

slowly back eventually reveals the edges of a narrow wooden

picture frame ...


Drifting away from the painting and slowly across a room.

Across Venetian blinds, open, letting in moonlight, across

intricate handmade wooden models, dime novels and comic books,

across the arm of a metronome gently slapping back and forth,

and settling finally on a small hand writing slowly and

deliberately, over and over, in synchronization, it seems, to

the rhythm of the metronome, the word, " L E O N A R D . "


The pendulum of a clock. An adult hand placing a bowl of

cereal on a table. Leonard, ten or eleven, waits a moment for

the adult to leave, grasps his spoon, and manipulates it from

bowl to mouth in time with the soft regular rhythm of the



Schoolbooks slung over their shoulders, Leonard and another boy

his age, a classmate, move along a street.

All around them are "visual rhythms" -lines in the sidewalk,

the even placement of trees, the sunlight breaking through the

branches above them -and somewhere unseen, the rhythmic

pounding of an elevator train.

As they climb a fence, a pocket watch, Leonard's, falls to the


4. INT. CLASSROOM -DAY -1930 4.

An adult hand chalking the words of a poem on a blackboard.

Children at desks dutifully transcribing the lesson.

All but one. Leonard. Whose hands are trembling slightly and

whose paper is blank. There is a noticeable lack of rhythms.

A cold silence. The broken watch rests on his desk.

The boy from the train, glancing at Leonard, begins gently

tapping the end of his pen against his desk. Leonard, "guided"

by the cadence of his friend's tapping, begins to write.



The teacher's hand at the blackboard hesitates. Distracted by 4.

the rhythmic noise, he traces it to the offender and silences

him with a look.

\ '

Without the rhythm, and without, apparently, inner natural

rhythms to replace it, Leonard's hand begins dragging the pen

across the paper, forming vague scrawl, each word less defined

than the last, until they begin melding together into what

resembles nothing so much as a child's rendering of ocean


The teacher resumes chalking on the board. The boy from the

train begins tapping his pen again, and, "guided" again by the

rhythm, Leonard is able to give definition to the "ocean

waves," to form recognizable letters.and words.

The teacher hesitates again and glares at the boy making the

irritating noise. The boy stops tapping and Leonard's writing

again becomes formless.


The finished poem on the blackboard. The sounds of children at

play on the schoolyard. The teacher, alone in the classroom,

at his desk grading the penmanship lesson.


He circles offending errors on the last page of the last

composition book. He scribbles a grade opposite the student's

name in a grade book. He notices the absence of a grade in

Leonard's column. .

Leonard's desk. The teacher locates the missing composition

book buried under textbooks. He takes it back to his own desk,

opens it, and stares curiously at the last lesson, the poem, or

rather Leonard's illegible representation of it.

He considers earlier lessons in the book. He begins to see in

the script a pattern of deterioration. He reaches the last

entry again and stares at the few recognizable words drowning

In "the waves."


It was an immense project. "

I was trying to extract a decigram

of myelin from four tons of


REV.12/15/89 (GREEN) Pg.5





I was on it for five years.

I was the only one who really

believed in it. The rest of them

said it couldn't be done. t


It can't.


Well, I know that now. I proved


The director offers a slow tentative nod before consulting the

resume again.


Maybe before. At Saint Thomas.

(Sayer is already

shaking his head no)

All research. Earth -?


Pigsbrains ... they•requite

similar to human brains.



Are they?


Oh,yes ... threeyears.

As the Director retreats back to the resume, hoping against

hope of finding in it something germane, Sayer glances away to

a window. He wishes he were outside it. He has no business

being here. He should leave.


Excuse me, I made a mistake coming

here. Clearly you're looking for

someone with more of a clinical


He stands up to leave. Kaufman stands to see him out. But the *

director keeps searching the resume.


REV.12/15/89 (GREEN) Pg.6

7.C0NT. SAYER . 7.

I've taken enough of your time.

You must have a hundred applicants

more suitable.


Thanks anyway.


Back in medical school ...

Kaufman shoots the Director a look that says, No, we're not

that desperate.


I mean, you couldn't have

graduated without some clinical

experience. .

Sayer hesitates. And eventually manages sort of a shrug and a

nod., v'


Well, there we are, doctor.

Rate this script:1.8 / 4 votes

Steven Zaillian

Steven Ernest Bernard Zaillian (born January 30, 1953) is an American screenwriter, director, film editor, and producer. He won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for his screenplay Schindler's List (1993) and has also earned Oscar nominations for Awakenings, Gangs of New York and Moneyball. He was presented with the Distinguished Screenwriter Award at the 2009 Austin Film Festival and the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America in 2011. Zaillian is the founder of Film Rites, a film production company. more…

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