- Emma Simmonds
- 5 January 2021
Earnestly intentioned but frustratingly narrow look at the life and death of Robin Williams
This earnest documentary from Tylor Norwood seeks to restore Robin Williams's reputation following the frenzied and unsavoury media speculation that met the actor's suicide in 2014. It sets the record straight on the circumstances surrounding his death; as the autopsy revealed, Williams was suffering, undiagnosed, from Lewy body dementia, a personality-altering, degenerative disease, something that tragically appears to have struck him down during a period of particular happiness in his life.
Norwood draws together an impressive collection of contributors – from the frequent input of Williams's crusading widow Susan Schneider Williams to friends, neighbours and film industry collaborators, including Shawn Levy and David E Kelley. You can't argue with their memories of a clearly beloved man and there are movie clips and archive footage of Williams performing stand-up and being interviewed, which go some way in illustrating his genius. But, with the exception of the projects he was working on close to the end (TV series The Crazy Ones and the third Night at the Museum movie – hardly his finest hours) and brief mentions of Dead Poets Society and Aladdin, his remarkable screen career is largely and slightly oddly skirted over.
The medical insights into Lewy body dementia are interesting and Schneider Williams makes an estimable focus in her resilience and desire to raise awareness of the condition. Nevertheless, honourable intentions aren't enough to make a documentary fully fly and fans, or those with any kind of interest in Williams, may find it frustrating that this film is more about how he died than how he lived. Repetitive recollections of the star behaving out of character in the leadup to his death are offered in place of fully fleshing him out; while Williams's demons, including battles with addiction and depression, are alluded to but never explored, as if only a saintly figure would be deserving of our sorrow.
Available to watch on demand now.