Lorenzo’s Oil

Discussion post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP5015 Course – October 4, 2019

 1. What aspects of the film exemplify passion?

Passion is depicted throughout the film.  Obviously, Augusto and Michaela display an incredible passion for finding a cure that could save their dying boy.  They turned their lives upside down and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Professor Nikolais, while being accused at times by the Odone’s of only being in it for the fame and recognition, was also passionate about finding a cure not only for Lorenzo’s sake but for all the other boys that were afflicted with the disease.  He went out on a limb on a number of instances to provide the necessary brainpower and resources. Michaela’s sister Deidre was incredibly passionate, not only in caring for Lorenzo but for advocating for him and the Odone’s marriage.  She was willing to challenge her sister’s instance that they keep pushing forward despite the awful pain and suffering Lorenzo endured to the point that her sister threw her out of the house.  In a similar vein, Nurse Ruth was passionate about letting Lorenzo pass away peacefully, so much so she finally had to walk away.  

2. Where do you see love that transcends common sense?

Both Augusto and Michaela let their love for Lorenzo transcended common sense for most of the movie.  They made a powerful tag team as Michaela took on the role of bad cop while Augusto was the quieter but no less determined good cop. As they found themselves amidst the stogy medical research and care industries, they continued to break china throughout.  Without a medical degree, they challenged the status quo and made the professionals view the problem from a different angle.  They attended the ALD Foundation weekend and outwardly challenged the leadership in an open meeting – not the first time they would butt heads with the establishment.  Their dogged determination rooted in unconditional love for their suffering son would not allow them to stand on formalities even for a second.

3. Is there a particularly poignant moment of intuition?

The most poignant moments of intuition surround the research the Odone’s conducted by themselves into understanding what was happening with Lorenzo.  The first occurred in the library when Michaela was looking through microfilm (yes, I’m old enough to remember) whizzing through article after article.  She suddenly stopped and found an obscure study done by a Polish researcher I believe on fatty acids in rats.  The article was critical in understanding the disease from a different angle, particularly as they wrestled with the issue of why the diet that reduced saturated fat intake was actually causing a rise in very-long-chain, saturated fatty acids (VLCSFAs).  The other scene where intuition plays a key role is when Augusto had holed himself up in the National Institutes of Health for days.  He’s used paperclips to represent the long-chain, saturated fatty acids, and then a different type of paperclip to display the bad saturated acid.  He asked his sister-in-law to be the bad saturated acid and he would be the VLCSFA, and when he saw it depicted visually, he had a breakthrough. He suddenly realized that it was the same enzyme, not a second, that was responsible for both the good and bad saturated acid.  This discovery is what opened the door for the ultimate cure.

4. What philosophical questions about life and soul are grappled with?

The most obvious philosophical question about life depicted in the film is when is enough, enough.  The Odone’s desire to find a cure for their son was understanding in the beginning.  However, when Lorenzo started having those awful and prolonged aspirations spells it became more and more difficult to watch.  As mentioned above, several people including Michaela and Nurse Ruth expressed their opinion that Lorenzo should be allowed to go in order to end his suffering.  The couple who ran the ALD Foundation also called the Odone’s on this issue when they had a very bitter and passionate exchange in the Odone’s kitchen.  Interestingly, I didn’t pick up much discussion of the soul in the entire film, it is an issue in itself.  The primary focus was on keeping Lorenzo’s physical body alive, and while there was some inclusion of the Odone’s Catholic faith, the film actually did very little to address issues of the soul and the afterlife.


IMDb. (2019, Oct. 3). Lorenzo’s oil. Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104756/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

Miller, G. (Director), Burk, A. (Producer) (1992). Lorenzo’s oil [Film]. United States: Universal Pictures.

Stith, B. (2019, Oct. 3). The use of the movie “Lorenzo’s oil” as a teaching tool. Dr. Brad Stith, University of Denver, Biology. Retrieved from 


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