When Augusto and Michaela Odone’s six-year-old begins to throw uncharacteristic tantrums, the couple turns to the medical world—then away from it, as the doctors’ answers grow less and less hopeful. George Miller (a medical doctor before he began his film career) directed this true story of little Lorenzo Odone’s extremely rare brain disease and his parents’ desperate do-it-yourself approach to undone medical research. So delicate a topic as illness and disability is treated with genuineness by the filmmaker, who creates extremely human, subjective, and vulnerable characters to inhabit the story.
While the performances of the adult leads are powerful, the figure of the sick and suffering child has its own unique force. The disturbing images may, depending on the individual viewer’s sensibilities, have one of two effects: they could be seen as a flaw in an otherwise uplifting piece, or as moments of real courage and substance in a potentially indulgent tragedy. In any case, as Lorenzo’s condition worsens, the depictions of the both the disabled child and the strained adults become more intense, and require quite a bit from the viewer, emotionally. Though possibly more about children than necessarily for them, the film’s affection for its own troubled characters certainly invites the sensitive viewer to follow those characters in their experiences toward even greater sensitivity.