Submitted by Aaron Nelson
No matter where you are from, or when you were born, Robin Williams was there. I was lucky enough to have him in my childhood. I laughed with him as Professor Philip Brainard and The Genie. I went on adventures with Alan Parrish and of course Peter Pan himself. As I grew older he was there, Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, he won or was nominated for them all. I learned to appreciate not only his comedy but the fantastic way he would devour a dramatic roll. His stand up, hilarious. He was haunting as Seymour Parrish. The man even played a President or two. Robin put his heart into everything he did.
We all have a spot in our hearts for Mr. Williams, from Mork & Mindy to Death to Smoochy. Hours could be spent discussing his credentials, but what really made Robin stand out was his heart—the unrelenting passion he had for making you laugh.
Since his death I have watched several of his films. From touching family films like Mrs. Doubtfire, to the eerily close-to-home World’s Greatest Dad. Now more than ever my favorite is Dead Poets Society.
As Mr. Keating he told us to embrace life, that tomorrow is not promised to us. Mirroring Robin’s own life, he told us it’s okay to be different, to embrace that spark that makes you “weird” and run with it.
As in Neils tragic end from the film, Williams‘s suicide rips your heart out. How could someone so talented and special end their own life? But that’s the thing: depression does not make sense. Those of us that have not lived with it will never understand it. If you are reading this, and you are hurting, I want you to know that you are special and you are beautiful and, most of all, you are loved.
O Captain! My Captain.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Worlds’ Greatest Dad
Submitted by Pat Fenton
What made Robin Williams an amazing actor was the truth he put into his performances. He was a character actor, and you could always tell no matter what the role he wasn’t playing it, he was living it. Take the movie World’s Greatest Dad, in which he played a dad trying to win the affection of a troubled son who was doomed to die tragically. It was one of those rare movies that put a light on the darker side of the way we as a society treat death.
In the movie, Williams had opportunities to bring audience feelings from across the spectrum through Lance Clayton: a father and high school teacher (at his son’s school) who wants to save his deceased son his dignity by deciding not to tell anybody he died due to autoerotic asphyxiation, forging a suicide note, and later even entirely making up a diary. Throughout the movie, Williams’ flawless method acting helps the audience understand this flawed man while he deals with grief and guilt all while juggling a precarious love life and troubles with his boss. He always found a way to bring the audience in and show them what his characters were thinking and he was flawless as the pitiable Mr. Clayton.
It doesn’t matter which Robin Williams movie you’re watching, whether your watching his stand-up act or his TV shows, when you watched Williams on stage or screen you knew magic was going to happen every time. He could make you understand the joy of finding out you are Peter Pan and he could also make you understand the hermit in Alaska trying to run from a tragic mistake. He could walk up on stage and make you laugh and cry about the state of the world. I like to think his demons did not slay him, they ensured his place amongst the great artists, for without them he would not have touched so many lives in so many different ways.
Submitted by Michelle Gajewski
The story of Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, is a classic narrative. I mean, who in their right mind would want to grow up? Quite frankly, being a grown-up kind of sucks. Many children don’t understand this, but I was quite aware of the privileges granted to me for simply being young. Sure, I recognized some perks of adulthood (no one to tell me when it’s bedtime!), but for the most part, I was very much in the Peter Pan mindset.
Watching Hook and Robin Williams’ portrayal of a grown-up Peter Pan, however, somehow helped ease the process of the inevitable: growing up. Williams convincingly depicts the stereotypical workaholic father who slowly lets the child in him reemerge upon his return to Neverland to rescue his two children from Captain Hook. I remember how excited I was to see Peter relearn to use his imagination with the Lost Boys and reclaim his ability to fly. He doesn’t completely revert back to the Peter that he once was though; he rediscovers his inner-child to save his children, and ultimately, his family (a very adult and mature thing to do).
What a relief it was to see that adults can have fun, too. This film showed me that yes, growing old is inevitable, but completely growing up is not mandatory. After all, “to live would be an awfully big adventure,” and what kid doesn’t enjoy a good adventure?
Submitted by Sam Henry Miller
“You only know you love her when you let her go”
-Passenger, “Let her go”
Unfortunately, life is the one love we’re not afforded the luxury of longing for. This, in essence, is the message of Awakenings. The premise allows us to examine the concept in microcosm through the device of onset comatose. We watch Leonard (De Niro), a man in a vegetative state, cured, and then torn—ripped—back into the nightmare of his illness. But through his struggle, a lesson is imparted: that life is an extraordinary gift, despite how extra we see of it or how ordinary it seems. More apt, this lesson is imparted to Williams’ character, Dr. Sayer, and instills with him the courage take risks, despite his fear of rejection.
During one scene, after reading over the ever-grim news headlines, Leonard has a revelation and remarks, “people have to be reminded”, as in, “it’s not that people don’t know; they just forget”. Their ability to view the human experience in broad scope, from an appreciative vantage goes dormant, or alternatively, comatose. They just have to “wake up”, so to speak, every once in a while.
It’s impossible to rightfully claim Williams did or did not, in the trenches of life’s topical plights, forget what Sayer will always, on film, remember. Depression and acute-drug withdrawal are chemical conditions that require support, therapy, and—dare I say—luck. I dare to say this because Williams had support and therapy. He had resources: a loving family, wealth (and, thus, access to medicine), but perhaps what he lacked on the day he chose to take his life was luck. Because if he could only have seen what Sayer saw, that might’ve been enough—just enough—for him to drop the noose. It might’ve.
So now the message of Awakenings is emboldened to the morbid converse: this time not by Sayer’s gain, but by Williams’ loss. Life is an extraordinary gift, and, every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you’ll wake up and smell it. Then perhaps, in an abstract sense, Williams’ death will be at least a little less in vain.
The Fisher King
Submitted by Andrew Ferell
I’ve spent a great deal of time since Robin Williams’ heartbreaking passing going through the same stages of grief so many of his beloved fans have endured. I could continue to dwell on the immense talent lost, not only as a one-of-a-kind entertainer, but also as a true humanitarian. The likes of which this world rarely experiences and surely will never witness anytime in the foreseen future. There’s not much left to be said that hasn’t already been emotionally conveyed in numerous touching tributes from those who knew him best in life.
So all I can muster is the hope to do his legacy justice by honoring him through one of my all time favorite pieces of cinematic magic he offered to my childhood. And believe me when I say I racked my brain for days on end reaching for a solidifying film out of all the classics he graciously bestowed upon our lives. In my best attempt to not get swept up any further in pain and confusion, let us shift focus on the 1991 Terry Gilliam directed treasure, The Fisher King.
This wonderful work of a dramedy encompasses every single bit of Williams’ warmheartedly funny, yet sorrowful embrace on screen. And, in relation to what unfortunately transpired at the end of his road, the mental health issues the script tackles hits that much closer to home in hindsight. For The Fisher King features his character, named Perry, as a former university professor who, in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, has become a vagrant unhinged from reality. A man who has seen hell and back yet still holds on to his humanity at every turn.
The story is one of redemption, treating the very serious subject matter with an earnest respect and admiration for those who have been dealt a raw hand in life. It certainly helps matters that Williams was able to inject such a compassionate take on the role, invoking a plethora of feelings that make you instantly root for Perry to overcome. With little to go on in his bizarrely interesting introduction, you still genuinely gravitate to his presence and take in every ounce of his commanding persona– to later sympathize deeply with his revealed plight.
It’s a performance where you, as the viewer, get so wrapped up in all the craftsmanship that you tend to forget it’s a work of fiction. And it’s a beautiful aura Williams possessed that made him such a delight to watch no matter where he made his mark. It’s important to note The Fisher King boasts a fine cast of talent including Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter, and Jeff Bridges. Who are all at the top of their game playing off of Williams’ whimsy.
I can’t sing the praises of the chemistry between everyone involved enough. They each balance the right amount of bubbly highs with somber lows as their enthralling arcs unfold. As you’ll quickly notice, every key player is a beyond-damaged human being, but are just slightly out of reach of earning that ever sought after peace within themselves and society as a whole. And though it can be a taxing ride, it’s never without losing sight of the sense that everything is going to right itself, as they all so heavily deserve along their winding journey to find closure.
In the midst of the progressing events you’ll come to realize Perry (through his brief spurts of fantasy escapism bordering on the playful or gut-wrenching) is the key to teaching everyone how to unlock their innermost desires and vanquish their innermost fears. It’s equally phenomenal that Williams was able to do this for his fans off-screen, in turn making Perry seem all the more relatable, therefore tragic in a way when you start to make parallels now.
Because in mirroring the role to real life it perfectly illustrates what made this man such a maverick to behold. And despite the demons Williams kept inside, he was always striving to exorcise ours until we felt solace within ourselves, even if just for a brief period of time. It’s for that defining reason that Perry is, without a doubt, one of my most beloved character portrayals of his, as Williams truly put every fiber of his being into what he was born to do.
So I shall sign off by highly recommending The Fisher King if you haven’t seen it yet and taking a much-deserved bow to a visionary that will remain in the spirits of everyone he touched. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Robin Williams for being there for me at times when no one else was. Especially during the dark places I’m so sorry you felt all too well. I know you will live on to instill such inspiring hope for generations to come. May you forever rest in peace.