The world was rocked when Robin Williams died. Making the situation worse was the fact that the media advanced its own theories on his passing, saying that he committed suicide because of depression. In truth, he had Lewy Body Dementia, a degenerative disorder that causes hallucinations, anxiety, and depression, among other things. If there's an even greater tragedy in all this, it's that Williams, according to the new documentary Robin's Wish, knew something was very wrong, but since he wasn't diagnosed with LBD until after the autopsy, he had no clue why.
Directed by Tylor Norwood, the movie accomplishes two things. First, it gives an explanation of what Lewy Body Dementia is, via interviews with doctors who specialize in disorders of this type. They explain how problems with thinking and movement are common. We learn that it's fatal 100% of the time, and once it spreads throughout the brain, the person suffering from it can experience personality changes. One doctor informs us that suicide is common in the afflicted, as it creates an unbearable feeling of depression. This explanation sheds so much light onto Williams' passing. While it's true that he took his own life, it's not something he likely would have done without LBD.
The other thing Robin's Wish does is interview some of his loved ones and colleagues. Wife Susan talks about the shock of learning what actually killed her husband, as well as about how confusing his final months were. According to her, he was more prone to anxiety, couldn't sleep, and displayed less willingness to perform. Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy, meanwhile, reveals for the first time that everyone working on the third installment of that series was worried about Williams because he had trouble remembering lines and delivering the kind of rapid fire comedy for which he was known. David E. Kelley, producer of the TV series The Crazy Ones, has similar tales, saying that the comedian seemed unsure whether anything he was doing was funny. Friends and neighbors appear, too, to talk about the personality changes they noticed.
Robin's Wish is a heartbreaking “setting the record straight” documentary. The big takeaway, as Susan Schneider Williams says, is that had Robin known he had the ailment, he could have worked at accepting it. Because it was misdiagnosed, he lived his final months in a state of depression and uncertainty. He was gradually losing himself, without any sort of explanation he could try to wrap his head around. For someone whose mind worked with legendary sharpness, that had to have been a form of torture.
Although it packs an emotional punch, Robin's Wish doesn't break any ground in the filmmaking department. It's not always well organized, and the lack of participation from other people close to Williams, such as his daughter Zelda, is conspicuous. Hearing from them would have added to the impact. Having said that, I think fans will gravitate toward this film to understand what took a comedic legend from us, to heal from that loss a little bit. On those counts, Robin's Wish is absolutely something that needs to be seen.
out of four
Robin's Wish is unrated, but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 17 minutes.