Appreciating Life as the Central Theme of the Movie Awakenings

The plot of the movie directly relates to the primary theme in a very literal way. In telling the story of people whose lives have been taken away from them, in effect, via a medical illness for which there is no cure, overtly conveys the value of life. Though the patients are living and breathing individuals, they are extremely constrained in terms of movement, communication, independence and common daily activities that most people engage in every day without a second thought. They must live in an institutional environment where they are under constant supervision and care and cannot enjoy any of the trappings of ‘normal’ life such as love, activities, work, recreation and the pursuit of personal interests and fulfilment. As the movie focuses on the solitary and sedentary nature of these patients lives during the early parts of the film, the changes that occur when they are dosed with the new drug are made even more apparent, exciting and moving by contrast as the audience begins to see them leave their comatose states and become active individuals who each have a unique personality. Each patient, in particular Leonard the protagonist, is so utterly appreciative and excited by this new lease of life, that it forces the audience to relate to positive aspects of their own lives in a more appreciative way. As the narrative continues and the audience slowly realises that the effects of the drug are limited and of a short duration, this delivers a dramatic impact as life is again snatched away from the patients. As we see Leonard eventually retreat back to his vegetative state and his acceptance of his fate, it re-instates the vulnerability of life and the massive importance we must place on its value while we have it. The fact that Leonard tries to make the most of the rest of his time as an active individual despite understanding his destiny, is extremely moving and it effectively emphasises the theme of the movie. One scene in particular, where Leonard dances with his love interest and tries to savour each moment of it as he knows it is his last, is particularly poignant. The setting of the story amidst a hospital environment also effectively serves to emphasise the movie’s theme. Hospitals are synonymous with death, illness and the mortality of life and this setting immediately relates to these ideas. Seeing characters taking medication, undergoing medical treatment and generally being in vulnerable and fragile states is directly indicative that life is a precious gift that should not be taken for granted. Sickness is often something that healthy people take for granted, in that, if they are not sick, they tend to focus on other problems within their lives, to the detriment of not enjoying their lives as much as they should. It is usually only when people are diagnosed with an illness that they begin to appreciate all that having a healthy body and mind means. In this medical setting, this theme is very dramatically conveyed both literally and symbolically. Through the portrayal and development of characters the movie also explores its life-affirming theme. From the perspective of Leonard it is perhaps examined at its deepest level as the audience witnesses this character go from a catatonic state, to a thoroughly active