Hard to believe it's been six years since certified comic genius Robin Williams shuffled off this mortal coil, and it's even harder to believe how sensationalist the media became after descending on his small Northern California community in the wake of his death.
In Robin's Wish, documentary mainstay Tyler Norwood (The United States of Detroit) takes a deeper look at Williams' final days, running through a quick primer of a storied career before identifying Lewy body dementia as the real culprit behind his suicide—not depression, not anxiety, not substance abuse. It took years for Williams' widow Susan Schneider Williams to make that information known, and while the fallout from the incurable disease was devastating to the actor and those around him, not knowing seems worse.
Turns out Lewy body is as vile a disease as they come, one which degenerates the brain through improperly folding proteins, one which literally shuts down "neighborhoods" within one's neuronic connections and leads to massive amounts of confusion, self-doubt and even the rewiring of thoughts. Williams was, according to doctors interviewed in the film, quite literally a different person in his waning days, and comments from friends, colleagues, neighbors and Schneider Williams corroborate that thesis.
So why is this important? Why dwell on the death of a man who meant so much to so many? In a word—hope. The filmmakers and those Williams left behind valiantly attempt to diffuse any romantic notion of a tortured artist, granted with a starry eyed series of reminders that they just don't make 'em like Robin Williams; in fact, says one doctor, his rapid-fire mind and sharpened comedic abilities may have lent a hand in staving off the disease much longer than if he'd been neurotypical.
One wonders why the Williams kids don't make an appearance in Robin's Wish, and some interviews with neighbors almost feel like a chance for civilians to let the world know they surely had a famous friend once. But with a strong sense of vindication rattling around someplace between old chestnuts about Dead Poet's Society and Juilliard and Christopher Reeve, etc., there's a sense of relief.
As it stands, Williams was probably the last of his kind, one of the few celebrities universally loved and a beacon of joy for folks from all walks of life—from moviegoers and kids to soldiers he entertained at years' worth of USO performances. Knowing he hadn't made a conscious choice to die, while tragic, feels bittersweet, but one knows above all else he wouldn't have wanted the world to suffer on in the dark.
+Sweet relief; a deeper personal look at Williams
-Short; where are the kids?
Directed by Norwood
Amazon, NR, 77 min.