Lorenzo's Oil
R2 - United Kingdom - Fabulous Films
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (3rd November 2015).
The Film

Lorenzo is five years old and lives in Washington with his Italian Father Augusto Odone (Nick Nolte) and his Mother Michaela (Susan Sarandon). After a series of temper tantrums Lorenzo goes to the Doctor about his behavioural problems. He is soon transferred into the care of a hospital where he is diagnosed with a rare disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy or ALD for short. Lorenzo’s parents soon discover that the disease is incurable and that most children (the disease only affects boys) are usually dead within two years of prognosis. The systems before death are particularly unpleasant as the disease affects the brain meaning the Lorenzo will go blind, and be unable to walk or talk before he passes away. Despite the prognosis his parents do not give up of hope of finding a cure for the disease, a disease that ten years previously had not even been recognised. With the help of Professor Nikolais (Peter Ustinov) they identify what is causing the degeneration of the brain. Fatty acids which are naturally produced by the body and those that are found in common foodstuffs are destroying the surrounding tissue of Lorenzo’s brain and damaging large parts of his brain too. In a race against time Augusto and Michaela will not let anything get in the way in an attempt to try to cure the disease, and not just for Lorenzo but for many, many other boys in the World who suffer from this cruel disease.

Directed by George Miller (Mad Max) ‘Lorenzo’s Oil’ was a success when first released in 1992. The script, written by Miller and Nick Enright was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, whilst Susan Sarandon was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in the 65th Academy awards and Best Performance by a
Leading Lady at the 50th Golden Globe Awards. The acting from all the cast in the movie is beautifully done but it really is Sarandon and Nolte’s film. The anguish and determination both actors manage to portray is reason enough to watch the film. The film itself is harrowing and heartbreaking and will resonate with any parent but at times it can also be extremely uplifting as the love of both parents shine through. The science of the disease is extremely well handled as we follow the journey of Augusto and Michaela as they try to understand and makes sense of this horrible disease we learn along with them. The most heartbreaking part of the story must be when Augusto and Michaela realise that all their hard work and endeavour may not be enough for their child but maybe of some use to other children. Special mention must go to Noah Banks who plays Lorenzo for most of the film (two other actors play older versions of Lorenzo later on). His performance, which could not have been easy, is especially harrowing and brings to mind the performance of Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’. At times watching Noah act is extremely difficult to see and will bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened movie goer. I think it says a lot about the film that as soon as it had finished I immediately Googled the family to see what had happened to them after the conclusion of the movie. Not an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination but an essential one.

Video

Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation. Unfortunately the transfer is one of the poorest I have seen on a DVD for many years. I would grade this as VHS quality. At times the grain is so thick and the picture has so many compression artefacts that it seemed like I was watching the picture through a thin piece of muslin. To make matters slightly worse all captions on the film (dates and places for example) have been replaced from the original film in a blocky computerised text. Whilst I appreciate that the makers of the DVD wished to provide more up to date information on the Odone’s situation I would rather the film was exhibited as it was originally released.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The classical score in the film is quite beautiful and the stereo mix, which I imagine is the original mix, copes well and projects the music quite beautifully. It’s not without any problems sadly. The mix has not been cleaned up at all and during the films many quiet moments the is a low hiss throughout. There are also a raft of subtitles available in English (HoH), German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish.

Extras

Trailer (2:18) - The trailer is presented in 4:3 and is in pretty poor shape. It’s an unusual trailer in that despite featuring several scenes where characters are talking their voices cannot be heard and instead a piece of (suitably dramatic) music can heard instead. It certainly would not have convinced me to had gone to the cinema to see the film.

Overall

A truly heartbreaking film with a fantastic script and stellar acting performances from everyone but especially Nolte and Sarandon. Whilst the transfer on the disc is disappointing to say the least I still feel this worthy film should be seen.

The Film: A Video: D- Audio: C- Extras: E Overall: C

 


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