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Film of the Week Cruel end to a brilliant career

MARIA DUARTE recommends an insightful documentary on the rare disease which killed Hollywood star Robin Williams

Robin’s Wish (PG)
Directed by Tylor Norwood

IN AUGUST 2014, the suicide of Oscar-winning actor and comic genius Robin Williams at the age of 63 came as a profound shock.

Media speculation was rife over why he had taken his own life as his depression, previous struggles with addiction and Parkinsons diagnosis months earlier were mulled over.

But his post-mortem revealed that the cause of death was the deadly degenerative brain disease Lewy body dementia (LBD), almost impossible to diagnose.

“If we had the accurate diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, that alone would have given him some peace,” admits his wife Susan Schneider Williams in Tylor Norwood’s insightful yet heartbreaking documentary of the final days of an extraordinary man who was losing his grip on who he was and didn’t know why.

Along with his widow, some of his closest friends, neighbours and coworkers reveal for the first time the struggles they witnessed Williams undergoing as he battled paranoia, anxiety, self-doubt and hallucinations — all symptoms of a disease for which there is no known cure and which can end in suicide.

Director Shawn Levy describes the difficulties Williams was having on the set of Night at the Museum, his last film, particularly in remembering his lines.

He would call him in the early hours, worried about his work and whether it was good enough.

People on set every day saw what Williams was going through but kept it quiet.

“It no longer feels loyal to be silent about it,” Levy says at one point, but maybe more loyal to share without shame, without secrecy. This guy was hurting and he was going through something he didn’t have a name for yet.”

According to medical professionals, Williams had the most extensive case of LBD they had ever seen and they were surprised how long he was able to function.

They claim people who are brilliant, as Williams was, can tolerate degenerative diseases better.

This compelling documentary shines a much-needed light on this killer disease and on the beautiful soul Williams was in public and in private.

It finally rights a wrong about his demise and his legacy and honour have finally been restored.

Available on digital and on demand.

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