Inside the Blue Note nightclub one night in 1959 Paris, an aged, ailing jazzman coaxes an eloquent wail from his tenor sax. Outside, a young Parisian too broke to buy a glass of wine strains to hear those notes. Soon they will form a friendship that sparks a final burst of genius.
Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a shy research physician, uses an experimental drug to "awaken" the catatonic victims of a rare disease. Leonard is the first patient to receive the controversial treatment. His awakening, filled with awe and enthusiasm, proves a rebirth for Sayer too, as the exuberant patient reveals life's simple but unutterably sweet pleasures to the introverted doctor.