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Film / Lorenzo's Oil

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Lorenzo's Oil is a 1992 American film directed by George Miller that shows the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone (Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon) as they desperately try to find a cure for their son's (Zach O Malley Greenberg) ALD as he struggles with the disease.

The movie also stars Peter Ustinov, Kathleen Wilhoite, Gerry Bamnan, Margo Martindale, James Rebhorn, and Ann Hearn.

It was released on December 30, 1992.


Tropes for the film:

  • And I Must Scream: Lorenzo himself is one of the more famous Real Life examples.
  • The Big Board: Augusto has a whiteboard charting Lorenzo's blood fat levels by month. He repeatedly draws a kitchen sink with two faucets to illustrate and then update his understanding of how the fat level balances are supposed to work.
    Micaela: I married a plumber.
    Augusto: You married a man with a simple mind, who asks simple questions.
  • Dramatization: The film is based on the story of Augusto Odone, someone with no medical background who through self-study helped discover a treatment for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare disease his son Lorenzo had contracted.
  • Dreaming the Truth: The titular oil was partly inspired by a dream of Augusto Odone, as his son was saved by the medication.
  • Find the Cure!: The Odones search desperately for a cure, or at least treatment, for their son's ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy). Sponsoring an international symposium of scientists, they follow a thin lead to an oil with two specific long-chain fatty acids. This reduces the problem that's causing the disease, but then they learn a case as advanced as their son's also requires replacing or regenerating the nerve myelin sheaths. So they start working on that. Meanwhile, the oil is used on many patients to arrest the progress of their ALD, preventing the damage that harmed the Odones boy.
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  • Gratuitous Italian: Nick Nolte as Augusto says many things in Italian in the film. Nolte studied Augusto carefully to make sure he really sounded as well as looked and behaved like him, so that viewers know he did this in Real Life. Augusto was from Gamalero and probably spoke Piedmontese, but it's reasonable to assume he also spoke classic Florentine Tuscan as he does in the film. There's a point about midway through where he fires off a lengthy (subtitled) rant to Micaela.
  • Heroic BSoD: Augusto goes through a splendid one when researching Lorenzo's condition and finding out about all the terrible things that happen to those who are afflicted with it.
  • Humble Hero: Don Suddaby is the chemist who dares to make the oil that was deemed too difficult, and succeeds. When Michaela calls him to inform him about their plans, she graciously thank him for making it possible, to which Suddaby says to think nothing of it. The oil would prove to be successful and go on to save countless lives.
  • Shown Their Work: Augusto made an astounding piece of biochemistry research paper explaining the process, to show any potential chemist that the Odone's are serious in their research. Don Suddaby can't help but praise it and most likely inspires him to try to make the oil, which he does.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: This film has plenty of it.
    • Augusto and Michaela show the consequences of focusing all their attention on saving their son's life to an unhealthy level. It is a miracle they even managed to live throughout the film.
    • Augusto and Michaela get very little support from those studying ALD, mainly due to them just being two parents. It is understandable for any professional not to take the findings of two parents serious when they have only just started researching. Even when the Odone's find a lead to a cure, it was next to impossible to find any help, since the product they are asking to be made is extremely risky to make for human consumption,legal troubles could not begin to describe if it should fail. They only got help from one company when the owner asked for complete legal coverage should anything go wrong.
    • When they potentially found a way to stop the disease from growing with a mixture of oil that was painstakingly made, the FDA still have to research it to make sure it safe for everyone who needs it, even if two kids are showing positive reactions to it. So everyone else still has to wait.
    • Augusto and Michaela have to face the reality of Lorenzo's condition. Just because they managed to stop his ALD from taking his life, Lorenzo will still suffer various hardships in his life because of finding the cure so late into his disease, and the oil itself will only show slow recovery process. Augusto and Michaela can only take solace in the fact that they at least saved countless of parents from going through what they suffered through.
  • True Companions: Wendy Gimble is a Farmer who stuck with the Odone Family throughout the film. They became acquaintance through common grounds, her son and Lorenzo both have ALD, and Wendy would regularly bring her fresh vegetables to them and visited them in their time of need, overall being a good friend. This kindness did not go in vain, because as soon as the experimental oil proved effective with Lorenzo, they gave Wendy the oil for her son Jake, due to his ALD worsening at the time. The oil is expensive, mind you, and Wendy tried to pay them as much as she could, but The Odone graciously accepted her produce in return instead. Jake's condition stabilized soon after and Wendy went to go to the ALD meeting to confirm the Odone's efforts.
    • It is also worth mentioning that Michaela Odone, who at her worst, became a much paranoid person due to the stress of taking care of her ill son, and she would take out her frustrations on everyone, especially her husband. With Wendy, however, she was nothing but nice to her and her son Jake. It's likely because they're both mothers who are in extremely difficult positions for their loved ones and they need each other's support above all else.