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Lorenzo's Oil Reviews

An unusual piece of work that combines almost thriller-style suspense with an intelligent, neo-documentary approach to its harrowing subject. The film is based on the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone (Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon), whose five-year-old child, Lorenzo, is diagnosed as having a rare, fatal disease that is literally eating away his brain. Rather than accept the medical verdict, Lorenzo's parents become amateur research scientists, devoting their lives to finding a way of keeping him alive. The film's highest achievement is its honest, uncompromising presentation of unconditional love. In the later stages of Lorenzo's disease, when he seems to have lost any grip on the world outside, Augusto hesitantly suggests that his son may no longer have a "soul": his brain has deteriorated so far that he is no longer capable of thought or emotion. Isn't there a point, we ask ourselves, when a person ceases to be a person, and we should stop feeling for them as we once did? For Lorenzo's mother, the question does not even bear consideration. She condemns anyone who fails to share her zeal to some lower moral plane, banishing not only two capable nurses, but her own sister, from the house when they question the unqualified ardor of her crusade. Sarandon makes Mrs. Odone compelling, yet largely unsympathetic. We don't just applaud as she and her husband take on, and defeat, the bureaucracy of the medical establishment; we also recoil from her pious, pedantic self-righteousness. It's a brave, complex performance, and the centerpiece of an emotionally searing film.