Throughout the film Awakenings, filmmaker Penny Marshall demonstrates the progression of Dr. Malcolm Sayer’s perspective of life, as he awakens the patients of Bainbridge hospital. Dr. Sayer, a man who to merely go through the motions of life, does not actually live it. He masks his worries and fears with science, as long as it is predictable and safe. The irony in the movie is strong, although it appears that Dr. Sayer is awake and Leonard is asleep, it is really the other way around, Leonard just never had the chance to express being awake. Viktor Frankl says that “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’”. Dr. Sayer does not seem to have a ‘why’ to live, but patients like Leonard have a 1000 ‘whys’ and would be satisfied with absolutely any ‘how’.

Dr. Malcolm Sayer is finding it difficult to adapt to his new work environment, due to the unpredictable conditions of the patients, which he is immensely uncomfortable with. Even Dr. Sayer is well aware of his discomfort around people as he explains to Leonard that “Maybe if people were less unpredictable” he would be better around them.   He would much rather work away at another ridiculous science experiment that is safe and controlled, such as his absurd earthworm project. After Dr. Kaufman exclaimed, “it can’t be done” Dr. Sayer stated “I know that now, I proved it”. Whether the project could be accomplished or not, it is safe, which is ideal for a man such as Dr. Sayer. Dr. Sayer demonstrates his love for the security of science as he explains the table of periodic elements to Leonard,   “- every element has its place in that order, you can’t change that. They’re secure, no matter what”.

Penny Marshall captures the image of Dr. Sayer throughout the film impeccably. Her uses of visual symbols are incredible.   At the beginning of the film we can see that Dr. Sayer is a man hiding from the world when a golden retriever is at his doorstep, Dr. Sayer is frightened by the friendliest breed...