50.5% of the film
It’s actually an interesting story if you get past the direction mistakes and Nick Nolte’s awful accent and quite bad performance. It’ a tv movie disguised as cinema.
Susan plays the mother of Lorenzo, a little boy dying from a very rare disease, so, while running out of time, she and her husband try to find a cure or a treatment for the kid. Let’s be honest: the role of Michaela is almost a cliché. She’s the strong parent who won’t give up on her son’s life. She’s stubborn, she has a temperament problem, she loves him more than anything and won’t take bullshit from anybody. It’s the type of mother lion role: protective, maternal, fierce. Fortunately enough, we get Susan to play her, so the role is dug out of mediocrity.
First, Susan brings intelligence to the table. We look at her and we believe the character as both an intelligent, mature, 40-something woman, but we also see the mother, the softer side, it’s in the way she talks the boy. Her nicely portrayed relationship with Lorenzo is good for the performance, as a nuance to a mostly dehumanized role. We do not know Michaela, but we discover her through her connection to the kid and by the way she confronts them all.
When the film starts, she’s overshadowed by the real centre-story of the film: the disease affecting the boy and their lives. We see Michaela only with her husband by her side, as the devoted parents try to uncover this disease. There aren’t any moments to allow Susan to stand out, but we see her there and her intelligence reassures the viewer that this is a serious film.
To me, what makes this a very good performance can be identified in two major scenes. The first one is also the most heartbreaking moment in Lorenzo’s Oil. It’s around the middle of the film, the doctors don’t know what to do with Lorenzo and we get the idea that he might die. In the privacy of the hospital room, Michaela sits on a chair with her very sick & struggling child in her arms. She has tears in her eyes and she looks at him and she’s finally ready to let him die. When she says you fly as fast as you can to baby Jesus, we’re already melted (trust me!). The line can sound corny, but Susan puts so much devotion into this performance that you buy every second of it and the result is crazy heartbreaking (even though we know he’s not going to die in the middle of the film) because we see a mother ready to accept the biggest sacrifice.
The second one is sometimes before the ending: her husband comes to tell her that although their son will be kept alive, the scientific proof is that he is not able to communicate with them, he’s not even able to hear what his mother’s saying. Confronting this truth is devastating to Michaela, as she had been talking to the paralyzed boy, reassuring him and hoping he understands her. Susan’s achievement here is expressing emotion even before opening her mouth. She sits quietly, not moving, just listening to what her husband tells her. Her eyes do all the work, expressing the tragedy and the fact that she’s ready to admit this truth. All their work will help cure other children, as it’s too late now for their own.
Susan gives a strong, motherly performance. The role is a cliché and the film is no masterpiece. But with acting experience on her side, Susan is so believable in creating this woman that the kindness and honesty of her emotions get to us and the performance becomes not just essential to the film, but also the one humanizing factor and the true connection between the dramatic story and the viewer. It’s a 3.5, but I’ll go with .