Lorenzo’s Oil

It’s hard to make a docudrama with this subjecta couple (Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon) with a five-year-old son who has a rare and mysterious degenerative disease called adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)sound good, but in its own quiet way this is astonishing, both as a medical detective story that sustains taut interest over an extended running time and as a piece of cinema combining unusually resourceful acting and direction (by Australian George Miller, best known for his radically different Mad Max pictures and The Witches of Eastwick). Trained as a doctor, Miller, who wrote the script with Nick Enright, brings to this material an infectious political passion to make difficult concepts lucid to everyone and to place medical science in the hands of people who can do something about itwhich means that this movie winds up having a great deal to say about AIDS as well as ALD, not to mention medical bureaucracies and power structures in general. Both Nolte, as an Italian economist, and Sarandon, as an Irish-American linguist, are in top form, and the secondary castwhich includes half a dozen actors as Lorenzo as well as Peter Ustinov, Kathleen Wilhoite, Gerry Bamman, and Margo Martindalenever let them down. If any movie deserves to be called inspirationala much-abused term that I hesitate to applythis one certainly does. (JR)

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