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Robin Williams’ death in 2014 was a heart wrenching blow that took a piece out of everyone across the world. Robin Williams’ wife, Susan Williams, heads the documentary “Robin’s Wish” and sets the record straight of early reports that the brilliant entertainer had taken his own life from depression, financial problems, a past addiction to alcohol and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Susan Williams debunks the false reports in detail and reveals that before taking his own life, Robin Williams was an unknowing victim of disease many never knew of. “Robin’s Wish” focuses more on his final days and the disease that took him. It features sound medical advice from experts in the field, giving us a sense of closure surrounding his death. Director Tylor Norwood sprinkles the tears with a celebration of his life, legendary accomplishments and generous spirit. “Robin’s Wish” is moving throughout and it increases the public awareness of an illness that many of us have never heard of. The film is brief at a 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it feels complete in its own way. It’s a solid, medically sound, very informative and emotional final chapter in a life that touched so many and one that deserves to be remembered for how he really lived and what truly caused him to be taken away from all of us in a life that was cut too soon.
Robin Williams is a man who needs no introduction. A beloved comedian and actor who can define what it means to be a legend, icon and genius. As an entertainer he was god like in always bringing the ability to make us laugh in everything from the beginningsas Mork from York in “Mork and Mindy” to his last filmed comedy “Night At The Museum 3”. He not only made us laugh but he could also make us cry, with the power he had as a dramatic actor from “The World According To Garp” to “Boulevard” and he could even make us feel uneasy as a photo developer stalking a family in “One Hour Photo” or as a serial killer in “Insomnia” with Al Pacino.
Through his nearly forty year career, Williams was nominated for a total of four Oscars (“Good Morning Vietnam”, “Dead Poets Society”, “The Fisher King”) and would go on to win Best Supporting Actor for “Good Will Hunting” in 1998, a well deserved accolade. But you won’t find details like that, nor will you find much about his film career in the new documentary “Robin’s Wish”.
Robin Williams’ death in 2014 was a heart wrenching blow that took a piece out of everyone across the world. Robin Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider Williams, heads the documentary and sets out to correct the records of early reports that suggested the comedian had taken his own life from depression, financial problems, his past addiction to alcohol and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Susan Williams debunks these false reports in detail and reveals that before taking his own life, Williams was an unknowing victim of Lewy body dementia. A catastrophic neurological condition that impedes thinking, motor skills, sleep, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia and the list goes on. Robin was “not in his right mind when he died by suicide”, his wife says in the film.
“Robin’s Wish” is sprinkled with a celebration of his life, legendary accomplishments, generous spirit, his open mic nights, friendship with Christopher Reeve, charity work and select films like “Dead Poets Society”. All of this is well-worn territory, but director Tylor Norwood includes these few little known anecdotes to give context to the Robin we all lost. For a more illustrated look at his career, check out the 2018 documentary “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”.
“Robin’s Wish” focuses more on Robin’s disease and how he was not the Robin he was so well known to be in his final days. The film features sound medical advice from experts in the field, giving us a sense of closure surrounding his death. It by no means does it make the passing of Robin Williams any easier, but it helps heal our hearts just a bit to finally find out what led him to suicide. We finally get the answers we have all been waiting for, six years after he left us.
“Robin’s Wish” is not an easy watch and the emotions are felt, although it’s valuable to the fans who have been looking for closure. Pieced together with archival footage, medical examinations and exclusive new behind the scenes tidbits. “Robin’s Wish”, follows Susan Schneider Williams, as she examines the coroner’s report and makes the shocking discovery that Robin’s brain was ravaged by Lewy body dementia not by Parkinson’s as they were told by doctors.
“Robin’s Wish” is at its best when it reconstructs the final months and days of Williams’ life, from the perspective of his widow, his neighbors, close friends Robin Williams knew instinctively that something was wrong with him and that he could sense the walls of his life crumbling around him. Having his children involved and hearing their observations would have given the movie an even deeper texture.
Instead Susan’s personal recollections of her husband’s struggles are the most harrowing and emotional. She relives them for the camera so that people can understand everything that was going on. It is definitely valuable for Susan to set the record straight and has now committed to raising awareness of Lewy Body Dementia. Susan Schneider Williams is the beating heart of the documentary.
Director Shawn Levy who directed all three “Night At The Museum” films is also interviewed. Levy noticed Robin’s decline on the final picture when Robin Williams brain had started to go. He kept the decaying state of Williams to himself and here he decided it was time to unveil what the actor was consistently thinking and his internal struggle of being “good enough” on set. They also note Robin’s steadfast commitment to his contracts on film projects where he wouldn’t even break them to take medically recommended time off.
Robin would say yes to every fan that wanted an autograph or a picture or to reporters who interviewed him to promote his projects. On the red carpet Robin would always talk to every single person on the line, even long after the movie had started. He was generous that way, as he was with his dedication to the USO and in paying hospital visits to the sick or Military injured.
The tabloids and media networks latched onto the idea that Williams was clinically depressed. Claiming he was sleeping in a separate bed from his wife (although they were advised to do so by doctors), had been seeing a therapist regularly and stopped doing guest comedy show appearances. While all that was true to an extent, it undermined what Williams was actually undergoing.
The truth is, he didn’t know what was going on and that included his wife, while his doctors had originally diagnosed him with Parkinson’s. They too didn’t know. It wasn’t until a late autopsy report after his death, was it uncovered what was really going on. The main purpose of the documentary is to shed light on a disease not many understand, and to provide context to Williams’ death. Suicide is one of the countless side effects to Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia, as it constantly rewires the brain to think in an altered state. “Robin’s Wish” is moving throughout and it increases the public awareness of an illness that many of us have never heard of.
As the world stood in shock when the news broke that Williams had committed suicide. How could someone that was so loved by billions around the world and emulated such joy and confidence in his work be depressed? The answer is finally revealed thanks to director Tylor Underwood and Robin’s wife Susan who both uncover the truth behind Williams sudden death in an informative but heartbreaking fashion.
As hard as it is to watch, because most of it will be through tears, it is important to watch. After seeing the documentary I can now properly say goodbye to a man who has entertained me and I’ve been such a fan of all my life. I understand now what happened to this ridiculously brilliant man and my heart breaks for him, his family and friends.
Having shed light on Robin’s disease, his decline, what his wife and others close to him had observed and in-depth medical explanations, make this brief film (1 hour 15 minutes) feel complete, in its own way. What they’ve made is a solid, medically sound and emotional final chapter in a life that touched so many and one that deserves to be remembered for how he really lived and what truly caused him to be taken away from all of us in a life that was cut too soon.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3.5 out of 5)
•How to get help with suicide: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.