Robin’s Wish takes a detailed look at actor-comedian Robin Williams and his battle with a deadly neurodegenerative disorder known as Lewy Body Dementia.
When the news broke of his suicide in August 2014, it was very much a shock to us all. How could a beloved superstar kill himself? The diagnosis wouldn’t come in until two months later when Susan Schneider Williams learned her husband was battling Lewy Body Dementia. More over, this deadly neurodegenerative disorder has no cure. In other words, Williams was going to die sooner rather than later.
The running time is just shy of 80 minutes. It’s short as documentaries are concerned–especially one about a beloved comedian. But this is less a film about Williams in as much as it is an education on Lewy Body Dementia. How much do you know about LBD? Buckle up because you’re in for a lesson.
Following the posthumous diagnosis, Susan Schneider Williams not only learned more about the disease that plagued her late husband but became an educator. In addition to Susan, Robin’s story is told by friends, neighbors, co-workers, and medical professionals. Both David E. Kelly, John R. Montgomery, and Shawn Levy open up on working with Williams during the final months of his life. Among the comedy friends that talk about Robin’s final years are Mort Sahl, Rick Overton, and Michael Pritchard. Juilliard classmate Christopher Reeve appears via archival footage. Williams disguised himself as a doctor to visit his former classmate in the hospital after his accident. This speaks to his character.
One of the most fascinating things I learned about Robin in watching the film is that he wanted to live in an actual neighborhood. He didn’t want to be just another person living in a gated community in Beverly Hills. By living in Marin outside of San Francisco, Williams was able to escape the Los Angeles life. Here’s a guy that would be friendly with neighbors while walking his dog.
Among the comedic highlights is footage of Williams recording his lines for Aladdin. The behind-the-scenes footage of The Crazy Ones and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb are taken from the final year of his life. I remember being sad when the CBS comedy series was cancelled but this documentary adds new insight.
A month into the Night at the Museum shoot, it became clear to director Shawn Levy that something was going on with Robin. This marks Levy’s first time speaking on the record about working with Williams on the third installment.
“We saw that Robin was struggling in a way that he hadn’t before to remember lines and to combine the right words with the performance,” Levy says. “When Robin would call me at 10 at night, at 2 in the morning, at 4 in the morning, saying, ‘Is it usable? Is any of this usable? Do I suck? What’s going on?’ I would reassure him so I said ‘You’re still you. I know it. The world knows it. You just need to remember that.’ My faith in him never left but I saw his morale crumbling. I saw a guy that wasn’t himself and he thought that was unforgivable.”
If you want a biographical documentary, watch Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. If you want a look at the final year of Robin’s life and his battle with Lewy Body Dementia, come prepared with Kleenex to watch Robin’s Wish.
DIRECTOR: Tylor Norwood
FEATURING: Susan Schneider Williams, Shawn Levy, John R. Montgomery, Rick Overton, and David E. Kelley