Like the genie that stole the show in Disney’s Aladdin (1992), Robin Williams carried within him a precious and rare power. He could transform our ordinary surroundings – a multiplex, a living room – into a place where humanity and humour danced together unrestrained. He channelled generous expanses of energy, which resulted in performances that those of us who grew up watching him can still freshly recall today. He could charge words with great heart, as he did in Dead Poets Society (1989) and Good Will Hunting (1998), while also possessing the unassailable talent to magic them up in his standup comedy, and his now legendary improvisation in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).
His films were often derided by critics for being sentimental, but Williams’ gift was to make the sentimental moments utterly truthful and sincere. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) tackled divorce through approachable storytelling; Hook (1991) celebrated children’s capacity for infinite imagination; and Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack (1996) introduced the subject of mortality to young audiences. Williams once said that “comedy is acting out optimism”. This is his legacy.