Robin's Wish

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Robin's Wish Movie Poster Image
Touching tribute to Williams' life, struggle with dementia.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 77 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes honesty, perseverance, empathy, compassion. Reveals how important it is to be community-minded and generous. The legacy of artists is also a major theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Williams is depicted as a consummate entertainer who gave back to his community, loved his family, tried to use his celebrity for good. He's shown helping injured veterans, supporting lesser-known comedians, being an extremely generous and kind man. Susan is dedicated to explaining why Robin's death by suicide was much more complicated than immediately thought.

Violence

References to Williams' suicide; footage of veterans with amputations.

Sex

Discussion of Susan and Robin's romance, from how they met to their time dating and eventual wedding.

Language

Infrequent use of words including "stupid," "damn," and "God" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism

References to several of Williams' movies, like Dead Poets Society. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Conversations about how many drugs Williams did as a younger man. Susan, who also had a substance dependency, discusses how she and Williams bonded over their wild past and being in recovery.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Robin's Wish is a documentary that examines beloved actor Robin Williams' death by suicide in 2014 and the rare condition he had: Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). The film is anchored by extensive cooperation with Williams' widow, Susan Schneider Williams, who provides the majority of the interview footage. Viewers also hear from medical experts and several of Williams' friends and co-workers and see archival video of his performances. There are some heavy conversations about Williams' history of substance abuse, his erratic behavior, and his struggles with both of those things, as well as his periods of depression. The film also explores the many ways Williams dedicated himself to serving his community, active-duty military, veterans, kids, and his friends, including the late Christopher Reeve. Families who watch will have plenty to discuss about Williams, his disease, his performances, and his legacy.

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What's the story?

ROBIN'S WISH takes a close look at Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams' final years and the rare condition that led to his death by suicide. Although depression (compounded by a recent Parkinson's diagnosis) was widely reported to be the overriding reason for Williams' decision, his widow, Susan Schneider Williams, reveals that the autopsy and subsequent research showed that the actor was suffering from an advanced, extremely severe case of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which can impact memory, motor control, and thinking. Susan and several lifelong friends, neighbors, and co-workers (including producers and directors on Williams' final projects) discuss how Williams' behavior changed during the last year of his life. Director Tylor Norwood also includes details about LBD through interviewing specialists who study it, but this isn't just a deep dive into a rare disease. It's a tribute to Robin Williams the actor, the comedian, the friend, and the husband.

Is it any good?

This insightful, intimate documentary explores the real reasons behind Williams' death, pays tribute to the actor's kindness and generosity, and reminds audiences what a legend they lost. Susan is a fierce advocate for her husband's legacy, and she speaks candidly about the demons he fought during the last year of his life. It's almost a relief to find out about his rare, terminal condition, because it explains the depths of despair and confusion that the dementia caused. While depression is treatable, LBD is not, and Susan firmly believes that LBD was like a "terrorist" metaphorically taking over Robin's brain. But the film isn't just about LBD. It's also a tribute to Williams' dedication, passion, and art. Some of the best homages to him come from his waterfront Marin County mansion's neighbors, none of whom are in the industry. Fans will also be touched to hear about Williams' volunteer work with the USO and how often he connected with veterans and active-duty military.

It's surprising to hear from Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy, who reveals that Williams really wasn't himself on set -- and that everyone in the cast and crew knew he wasn't himself but kept it private until Susan went public with the autopsy report's findings. David E. Kelley, who produced The Crazy Ones, also chimes in about the obvious difficulties Williams had remembering his lines. In this age of the 24-hour news cycle, it's amazing that the filmmakers and their crews were able to keep Williams' behavior mostly to themselves. The only conspicuous missing piece from Robin's Wish is the involvement of Williams' children, who are active on social media and in discussing their father but who were involved in a bitter feud with Susan over part of his estate. Ultimately, the film is a testament to a widow's enduring love for her late husband and her commitment to sharing the truth about his little-known condition with the world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they consider Williams, as portrayed in Robin's Wish, a role model. What made him such a beloved actor and celebrity? How did he help others? How did he demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How can the death of an artist impact fans and popular culture in general? Which actor's or celebrity's death has affected you?

  • What do you consider to be Williams' legacy? Which of his roles did you like most?

  • What did you learn from the documentary? Why do you think it can be difficult to discuss dementia and other chronic diseases?

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