Starring: Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte
Director: George Miller
A newspaper article was the genesis for this film that went on to receive widespread critical acclaim and two Oscar nominations; one for Susan Sarandon for her powerful portrait of a mother dealing with the unimaginable reality of witnessing her only son crippled by a little known disease passed on to him by her own genes; and the other for the screenplay co-written by Australians George Miller and Nick Enright.
The article, discovered by Miller who had trained as a medical doctor, documented the struggle of Augusto and Michaela Odone to find a remedy for the “biochemical conundrum” called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). When their son Lonrenzo was first diagnosed, the experts predicted a rapid decline towards inevitable death. But through their own persistent research, the Odone’s found if not a miracle cure then at least a preventative antidote.
Nick Nolte adopts an Italian accent to play the obsessive Augusto whose long hours at the library finally pay off when he concludes that a mixture of basic olive oils provides the key to a cure. Peter Ustinov is Professor Nikolais, a professional in the field constrained in his advancements by the rigours of science and funding. And young Zack O’Malley Greenburg takes on the challenging role of Lorenzo, the subject of their urgent enquiries.
It’s devastating watching him deteriorate before our very eyes while his parents struggle to make headway with the medical profession and the ALD Foundation but the montage of boys at the end of the film who have since benefited from their discovery makes it all seem worthwhile. The real life Lorenzo celebrated his 29th birthday this year and while his bodily functions remain seriously damaged, his mind is still there – an amazing feat considering he was initially given a two year death sentence.