When a small boy is diagnosed with a terminal disease, his parents exhaust all avenues in search of a cure. Based on a true story. [ Lorenzo’s Oil credits: Dir: George Miller/ Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov/ 135 min/ Drama/ Individualism, Creator as Hero]
Keep the tissues handy for this one. At the center of this film is a small boy who is sick with a rare, “incurable” condition called ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy). This disease typically results in degeneration of the brain within two years of diagnosis. There is no known treatment. Luckily for him, his loving parents have the spunk to at least try to develop a treatment for the disease on their own.
To do this, they must overcome many obstacles—their own lack of scientific knowledge, the opposition of professional scientists, lack of funding, and so on. But in the end, they learn enough about the disease to develop a treatment that at least slows the disease in some cases, and indeed their son did not die in two years but cheated death for three decades. This remarkable true story has a lot going for it.
First and foremost, it projects an image of independent, action-oriented people taking responsibility. The parents in this story don’t just hand their child over to doctors and hope for the best. They get involved. They are motivated to find a cure in part because they have a strong sense of responsibility for their child. Of course, we can’t all do our own research every time the medical profession fails us, but it’s nice to see people who still think for themselves enough to try.
Second, this story has a strong element of the creator-as-hero theme. The couple here work out the problem logically and find a solution. The fruit of their labor is ultimately demonstrated in pictures, shown at the end, of the many children the world over who have been helped by their treatment, “Lorenzo’s Oil.”
Thanks to such a heartwarming story, this is an all-around satisfying film. It’s told with interesting cinematography and well selected classical music. On the downside, there’s an offhand comment (in regard to government-funded research) about the stinginess of “Reaganomics,” a small point in the context but one to which libertarians will be sensitive. Also, there is some weakness in casting. In particular, there must surely have been a better choice for the Italian father than Nick Nolte, whose struggle with the accent distracts from his performance. In any case, the story is so wonderful it overwhelms all shortcomings. Lorenzo’s Oil is certain to be a hit with parents of young children.