Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
September 13, 2020–January 31, 2021
A portrait at once tender and thrilling. . . . [Sacks] was that rare if not unique thing, a scientific navigator of the soul.Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Shortly after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015 at age eighty-one, neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks welcomed a documentary film crew into his apartment for a series of intimate conversations. Those interviews became the basis of this moving portrait, enriched with images from his extensive personal archive and commentary from friends and associates including Lawrence Weschler, Robert Krulwich, Atul Gawande, Temple Grandin, and many others. For Sacks, storytelling was a key to selfhood, and his own life makes quite a story. The film recounts his childhood in London in a family of Orthodox Jewish doctors, his youth in California as a motorcycle-riding, amphetamine-popping bodybuilder-slash-medical-resident, his challenges and breakthroughs as a neurologist in New York, and his later career as an esteemed author and public intellectual, all while grappling with homophobia and the fear that he might never know love. From these personal experiences flow universal observations about consciousness and individuality, suffering and empathy. The film supports Sacks’s assertion that “there is no one like anyone else, ever”—and that this uniqueness is what all of us, from the most afflicted to the most gifted, have in common.