Admirers of Oliver Sacks (1933–2015) may think a documentary on the famed British neurologist and author is superfluous given the number of books published on him in recent years. Lawrence Welschler’s memoir And How Are You, Dr Sacks? (2019) is impressively comprehensive. Sacks’ own partner, Bill Hayes, provided more insight with Insomniac City (2017), and Sacks himself produced two memoirs, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a chemical boyhood (2001) and On The Move: A life (2015). It is this second autobiography that would seem the final word on the subject, yet the documentary Oliver Sacks: His Own Life offers its own rewards. While it covers much of the same ground as On The Move (Sacks actually reads excerpts from it for the camera), the opportunity to see him on screen, speaking with such candour, feels like a privilege that sets it apart from the written word.
Director Ric Burns has been given unprecedented access to Sacks and to those close to him, including his editor Kate Edgar, his peers, and, most importantly, Bill Hayes.