Robin Williams’s wish was to help people be less afraid. He would have wanted to shed light on Lewy body dementia (LBD), the horrible disease he unknowingly fought, and give people a greater understanding of its debilitating effects – hence the title of this documentary film, personally chosen by his widow Susan.
Robin’s Wish is in part a tribute to the genius of the late comic actor, featuring interviews with key collaborators including Shawn Levy (director of the Night at the Museum films) and David E Kelley, who created the sitcom The Crazy Ones, Williams’s final acting role. But mostly it’s an illuminating look at the disease that contributed to his suicide and the stages through which it gradually progresses to physical decline. The information about LBD is sourced from interviews with scientists and medical experts, who clarify that the scariest part is that there’s currently no cure or any preventative measures.
Tylor Norwood’s straightforward filmmaking recalls the expository style of many human interest documentaries on channels such as Lifetime and ITV. The format has some off-putting editorial choices, including an overproduced score that almost sensationalises some of the stories shared by his colleagues and neighbours, and a disordered structure that hops back and forth between the dark period of his late years and bright anecdotes about his career and charity work. At 77 minutes, it’s too short to be both a film about his private battle with LBD and a straight retrospective of his life and career (there’s already a beautiful work serving the latter purpose called Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind).
It’s a tough watch: viewers learn of the disturbing effect of LBD on the human body and listen to sombre reflections from his loved ones, who felt something was wrong but were not entirely sure what. The narrative repeatedly asserts that his suicide had nothing to do with debt, depression or addiction – if objective A is to spotlight LBD, objective B is to dispel the conspiracies that floated around after he died. By fulfilling both agendas, Robin’s Wish provides closure for fans and galvanises audiences to support LBD research.
Robin’s Wish is released digitally on demand on 4th January 2021.
Watch the trailer for Robin’s Wish here: