Awakenings Psychology Review

My Views

The fact that people suffer from catatonia (a state of neurological motor immobility manifested by stupor) because of a worldwide encephalitis lethargic epidemic – not able to respond (coma state) and function like a normal person but living, breathing and is aware of the surroundings, it is very disheartening and tragic to know that they are stigmatized to never be cured and function like a normal person. The beginning of the film portrayed that the majority of the hospital staffs treated the patients like they were critically ill and of no hope to recover to be ‘normal’. However, after Dr. Sayer’s presence, the realisation that the catatonic patients are able to be treated and recover their normal functioning. With that, the whole catatonic ward staffs including the Head of the hospital changed their perception on the disorder and the patients. They joined forces with Dr. Sayer on administering the L-Dopa drug and caring their every need after. The most dynamic relationship that touched my heart was between Leonard Lowe and Dr. Sayer. They showed the depth of human connection between two strangers who became best of friends. Additionally, the other dynamic relationships are between Leonard and his mother, and between the catatonic patients and the hospital nurses. These dynamic relationships showed the transition of a stagnant and routine-like environment to a lively and yet chaotic environment. All the dynamic relationships were the turning point for me to reflect on my relationships with the people I meet and the people who I care. As I do not share my feelings or tell people who I care how much they mean to me, the film made me realised that I should be appreciative of the relationships I have and treasure it than avoid or neglect it.

Another aspect that made my heart thump is the impactful scenes of the film (with psychological ideas). They are as follow:-

1. When Dr. Sayer decided to make Leonard to be his case study whereby Leonard is treated with the drug L-Dopa (specifically for Parkinson’s disease). The sheer determination portrayed by Dr. Sayer on wanting to administer the drug to Leonard despite the sceptics by the Head of the hospital. Although he was shy with people (as he likes spending time with his plants more than with people), he showed genuine empathy-induced altruism to people (Leonard Lowe and the rest of the catatonic patients) – to give back life to people who are supposed to be in a sleep-like state. Under the empathy-induced altruism, it produces sensitive helping (example, Dr. Sayer alleviating the sufferings of the whole ward patients), increases cooperation (example, between Leonard and Dr. Sayer, and the nurses and Dr. Sayer), and improves attitudes toward stigmatised groups (example, the nurses’ changed perspective on the catatonic patients). Dr. Sayer’s act of genuine empathy made me feel that people are inherently good and helpful towards another person who is suffering or in need. It gave me hope that there is still compassion in humanity in this world with the people like Dr. Sayer contributing to the society. Basically, it gave me hope that good people are still out there.

2. In the middle of the night, Leonard called Dr. Sayer which then they met up in the hospital whereby Leonard shared his thoughts about the joy of being alive (awake from his years of sleep state), freedom to do anything that most normal people take it for granted such as walking, eating, dancing and many more. He asked the ultimate question of “why do we not see the positive side in life but dwell on the negative part of life?”. Basically, he is trying to say that we should just appreciate life as it is – reminding us of the simple acts, words, skills, and behaviours that we take it for granted. It was a life affirming scene for me to treasure and be appreciative towards the life I have now and, not to complain and be depressed about it.

3. The scene when Leonard appealed to be given the permission to just walk outside alone on the street without any hospital staffs’ supervision made me tears. He just wanted freedom for himself. It signified a freedom taken away, the basic human’s right to “walk freely” without being supervised like a child. I shared his sentiment of being trapped with no freedom to do whatever he wants. The aggression he vented out was very reasonable as he was frustrated (against Dr. Sayer and the hospital staffs) and pent up emotions (example, anger) for so many years due to catatonia. Based on the frustration-aggression theory, Leonard is prevented from getting his walks alone outside without supervision (goal blocked) which then frustrates him that leads to his aggressive behaviour towards Dr. Sayer. I felt the same anger as him if my goals are blocked or taken away from me.

Overall, the film with the life-affirming theme is really interesting and excellent in terms of acting and script. It was not over the top and dramatic as of other similar films with the similar theme on life affirmation (example, “What Dreams May Come” or “Jack”) – both films are led by Robin William as the main character (Dr. Sayer) whom I adore. Links of the trailers are as follow:- (What Dreams May Come) (Jack)