Based on true events in neurologist Oliver Sacks' life, the film "Awakenings" features Robin Williams as a doctor who administers a new drug to catatonic patients. The new drug, L-Dopa, treats the degenerative disease in the patients and they 'awaken' to a new world in which they must adjust and adapt.
Set in a Bronx psychiatric hospital in the lat 1960s, Dr. Malcolm Sayer oversees catatonic patients. He eventually tests the drug, L-Dopa, on patients to see if it can bring them out of their medical slumber. One patient Leonard Lowe, portrayed by Robert De Niro, awakes from catatonia after several decades. After adjusting to life slowly within the hospital's confines, Lowe convinces Dr. Sayer to 'awaken' the other patients with the drug. Thus, their lives too are changed.
But eventually Lowe starts to show facial and body tics that he cannot control. The tics show the limitations of the drug, and eventually, Lowe's state descends into full body spasms. Other 'awakened' patients see his state deteriorating and fear theirs will as well. In the end, Lowe returns to a catatonic state even with increased dosages of L-Dopa. Although the physical 'awakening' did not last, Dr. Sayer recognizes another kind of awakening. An awakening where the medical staff and patients appreciate the richness, fragility and transient state of life.