Robin Williams was an actor I grew up watching. I remember watching reruns of Mork & Mindy growing up in the ’80s. I remember seeing the edited version of Good Morning, Vietnam on television. I remember absolutely loving Hook when it was first released and watching it multiple times at home, along with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, The Birdcage and Jack. His standup special on HBO in 2002, Robin Williams Live On Broadway, was a work of comedic genius. I adored his dramatic work, especially in Good Will Hunting and Insomnia.
It wasn’t until his death that I realized that Williams played a part in different aspects of my early years. There was a version of Robin’s talent that helped shape me from youth to college to marriage to father. And when he passed, it felt as if someone I had grown up with, someone who inspired me to be as whacky and out there as possible, was ripped away from me. At that time, it felt like the joy had ended.
Last night, HBO premiered their documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. The film documents Williams’ upbringing, his rise in stand-up to the small and big screen, and his personal bouts with love, drugs and his emotional state. The doc features a mix of Williams’ own words and discreet moments with his family and friends, like Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Pam Dawber, David Letterman, and his son, Zak Williams. Seeing and hearing them speak of Williams, it is easy to feel the love they have for him.
The film masterfully sits you in the world of Robin Williams. The culture shock he experienced in his teenage years moving from the Midwest to San Francisco in the ’60s. Embracing the freeness that existed there and fully indulging himself in the world of improvisation, standup comedy and the entertainment industry. It shows that while he believed in love, it was something he couldn’t keep a hold of for a lengthy time, as the demands of his craft took priority. Moreover, it showed his introduction and embracing of drugs and how the death of John Belushi shook him to his core, causing him to quit using immediately.
Especially featured in the third act of the doc is his mental and emotional state. The film presents us with this amazing talent who while commanding the stage and audience like a general, holding them in the palm of his hand and taking them on a nonstop joyride of hilarity, falls into a state of being introverted and reserved when he steps off the stage and the audience is gone. It then shines a light on the moment Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the toll it took on the icon’s mental state. Director Marina Zenovich presents a well-balanced and emotionally-fueled project on a comedic legend and his personal battles.
For me, Robin Williams will forever be an inspiration. He taught me not to care what people think. He showed me the importance of being yourself and not hiding it. To chase what it is you want to be and to never let go of that youthful way of thinking; the “you’re only as old as you feel” outlook. Even in his death, we can remember the amazing person that he was and also learn from the way his life ended. We remember Robin Williams not only by reliving his amazing life and career, but by taking steps in making advancements in mental health. We all have something we are dealing with. What is important is that we make it easily accessible for those who need help to find it. This is how we honor Robin Williams and all those who have suffered and continue to suffer.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is currently available on HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO OnDemand. Whether you are a fan of Robin Williams, a fan of great documentary filmmaking or a proponent for mental health awareness, this film hits on all cylinders. I strongly recommend you view it. I plan to do so, again and again.