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  • Colin Fraser


THREE STARS The remarkable life of neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks is explored by those who knew him best.


Starring Oliver Sacks

Everyone’s favourite neurologist and author Oliver Sacks discusses his own life in this documentary come fire-side chat. Director Ric Burns (brother of Ken Burns) keeps it light and bright as he and Sacks detail some dark and torrid moments in the doctor’s colourful and truly inspiring life.

Probably best known for the film AWAKENINGS (in which a version of Sacks is played by Robin Williams), the neurologist's work would eventually revolutionise our approach to mental health. He made his career studying ‘sleeping sickness’ and helped redefine how the brain and mind works.

Unsurprisingly, there was much more to the man than one field of study and a hit movie. He fled 1960’s England after coming out to his mother and being soundly rejected. Sacks turned to California, body-building and motorbikes (a particularly hot picture of him leathered up astride a bike became the cover of his autobiography). He battled drug addiction, became celibate for thirty five years and penned over a dozen books.

Burns uses Sacks’ autobiography as a guide, the film features a number of interviews recorded in the months before Sacks’ death. Many colleagues, celebrities, friends and family members speak, a testament to the trust that Burns had built between subject and his confidants.

There are a number of themes teased from Sacks life and work, notably how under appreciated gifted people often are. It is revealing how long he spent outside the establishment, lonely and miserable, than he did on the inside once his findings were taken seriously.

Perhaps the accumulation of these poor experiences gave him the empathy he needed to succeed. Whatever the case, society is better for the life and teachings of Oliver Sacks, despite what his mother thought.



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