oliver sacks: his own life



REVIEWER: lyall carter

Friends, family members, colleagues and patients discuss the remarkable life and career of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Documentaries seem to be having a resurgence in popular culture at the moment. At work we have a whiteboard in the smoko room where people write up their watchlist recommendations. Almost always they are documentaries on streaming services or in cinemas. Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is one of those documentaries that need to be up on our smoko room whiteboard. It is a powerhouse of a documentary giving us an incredible insight into the life and work of an extraordinary human being.  


Oliver Sacks: His Own Life explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact. Sacks was a fearless explorer of unknown mental worlds who helped redefine our understanding of the brain and mind, the diversity of human experience, and our shared humanity.


From the outset of the documentary you cannot help but be struck by the honesty of the subject. What you see is what you get with Sacks and from extremely personal information of his terminal cancer diagnosis to his love of periodic table socks, this is a documentary like no other. You get absolute access and honesty from Sacks. 


Even though the whole documentary is astounding it’s clear that the opening hour exploring his early years set Sacks up for the rest of his life. The curation of a mind and soul from a young age is incisively explored and we hear him recount his horror of his mother bringing home dead human fetuses to examine and dissect. We also hear Sack and others talk about the powerful impact that his brother's schizophrenia diagnosis had on him as a child and pushed him towards his ultimate profession. It’s a powerful and moving set of moments that helped to form the man that he would become. 


Through Oliver Sacks: His Own Life we see a man shaped by tragedy but able to overcome it for the betterment of humanity. It’s a powerful and timely reminder that whatever life may throw at us we can choose to use it for good or for ill. 


Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is a powerhouse of a documentary giving us an incredible insight into the life and work of an extraordinary human being.  


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