Set in a small town of Stillwater, Minnesota, Erik (Brad Renfro) is a 13-year-old adolescent loner with an emotionally abusive and neglectful workaholic mother, Gail (Diana Scarwid) who hardly spends time with him. His father, who treated Erik considerably better than his mother, lives in New Orleans. Dexter (Joseph Mazzello), an 11-year-old boy who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, is Erik's neighbor. Initially, Dexter is put off by Erik, but they become both good friends despite their differences. Erik seeks a family in Dexter and his congenial mother, Linda (Annabella Sciorra), due to his bad relationship with Gail, but Erik keeps the friendship a secret from her, knowing that Gail won't approve.
Gail discovers the friendship one night after Linda comes over to ask Erik about something Dexter ate in the boys' quest to find a natural cure for his disease. She is furious and warns Linda to keep Dexter away, but Linda, who resents her, ignores her and encourages the friendship. When the boys read an article in a tabloid about a doctor in distant New Orleans who claims to have found a cure for AIDS, they set out on their own down the Mississippi River in the hope of finding a means of saving Dexter's life.
Initially, the boys start taking a boat down the river with a bunch of degenerates, but eventually steal their money (as they were never treated well by the group) and try to hitchhike the rest of the way. When the boatmen find that their money has been stolen, they locate the kids at a bus station and proceed to chase them until they reach a dead end in a dilapidated building. Erik draws a switchblade, causing one of the men to draw a knife as well. Dexter suddenly grabs the knife from Erik, and cuts his hand to cause himself to bleed. He threatens the boatman with his blood, saying that he has AIDS and could easily transfer the disease to him (the boatman has open wounds on his arm as a result of an injury received when chasing the boys). Dexter then chases the boatmen off, threatening them with his bleeding hand. Once the two men are gone, Dexter realizes what he has done in directly exposing his blood to the outside environment. He suddenly feels sick, so Erik helps to escort him back to the bus station. Realizing that their journey must end if Dexter is to be treated, Erik resorts to calling Linda to have her pick the boys up when they arrive on the bus in Stillwater.
Once they return, Dexter spends the rest of his time in the hospital. Erik stays with Linda, knowing that not only will Gail be angry, but she will not let him visit Dexter in the hospital. Dexter and Erik prank the doctors three times that Dexter's dead. But when the third doctor arrives to check him, Dexter really has died. While driving Erik home, Linda notices a mother holding her young child while crossing the street. With the child serving as a reminder of Dexter, she pulls over and breaks down crying. Erik apologizes to her, saying that he should have tried harder to find a cure. Linda, taken aback by his comment, embraces Erik, explaining that he was the happiest thing in Dexter's difficult life. Upon arrival at home, they are confronted by a furious Gail. When Gail starts to hit Erik, Linda quickly intervenes and asks to talk to her privately.
Once the two are inside Linda's home, Linda angrily and tearfully informs Gail about Dexter's death and demands that she allow Erik to go to the funeral and be a better parent to him or she will report her abuse and neglect to Child Protective Services. Realizing all that she has done to Erik, Gail breaks down and guiltily complies.
At the funeral, Erik places one of his shoes in the coffin and takes one of Dexter's to let sail down the river (as earlier in the trip when Dexter's having nightmares, Erik told Dexter to hold one of his sneakers as a reminder that he's always by his side). This way, the shoes represent the boys' souls and their will to live.Brad Renfro as Erik
Joseph Mazzello as Dexter
Diana Scarwid as Gail
Annabella Sciorra as Linda
Aeryk Egan as Tyler
Nicky Katt as Pony
Renee Humphrey as Angle
Bruce Davison as Dr. Jensen
Andrew Broder as Tyler's Friend #1
Jeremy Howard as Tyler's Friend #2
The script for the film was written in 1993, and production began later that year. At first few studio executives were confident in the film's ability to successful, but most liked the script. Steven Spielberg expressed interest in directing the film, but wanted changes in the script and ended up leaving the project. Sydney Pollack also declined. The script was eventually purchased for a cost of $1 million by producer Eric Eisner. Eisner first chose director Martin Brest, however Brest also declined, as he was worried about how to get the performances of young actors.
The film's total budget was planned to be more than $20 million, but when Universal Pictures - who had signed on to distribute the film - expressed concern that no director had been signed on, Eisner hired Peter Horton to direct the film. Horton decided to cut the budget to just $3 million, making it a low budget film. To ensure the film's popularity, Horton hoped for a star to boost the box office returns and asked his ex-wife Michelle Pfeiffer and actress Meg Ryan to participate, both of whom refused. Horton was nervous to work with children, because he doubted the ability of young actors to express the emotional weight needed for the film.
Some studio executives complained about the script's irresponsibility in its treatment of homosexuality. One of them refused to negotiate the film, calling it "homophobic." Particular criticism was directed towards one scene in which neighborhood bullies insult Dexter, calling him "faggot", and that throughout the film gay characters are treated with disdain. In an analysis of the character, reviewer Jess Cagle said: "Jerry's homosexuality is apparent only in a slight part of Peter Moore's performance. The result is an effeminate character who is at best secretly gay, at worst an offensive stereotype."
The original soundtrack to the film was composed by Dave Grusin and released on CD by GRP Records the same year as the film.
Tommy Morgan contributed to the musical harmony. Michael Fisher worked with percussion. The instruments used in the martial band of the track are: piano, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synthesizer and alto flute. The song called "My Great Escape" was written and performed by Marc Cohn. However, this song has never been released in any medium outside of this movie.
In an analysis for Artist Direct, Rovi Jason Ankeny said: "The soft strings of music and the playful wind instruments sweetly capture the innocence of childhood without the traffic of sentimentality." Grusin's unusual gift for evoking particular moments in place and time is Most importantly, he deals with the subject of the film [...] with admirable moderation, avoiding saccharine in favor of drawing light from the heart, organic melodies that celebrate the Life instead of mourning their loss. " With critical acclaim, the soundtrack was nominated for the best instrumental composition written for film or telefilm at the 1996 Grammy Awards.
The Cure received mixed reviews from critics. It achieved a score of 45% based on 11 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Lisa Schwarzbaum gave a positive review, stating "Mazzello is naturally captivating and Renfro especially, is a remarkably instinctive young actor...What makes us cry is not that Dexter has AIDS, but that Dexter and Erik have each other to the end, until death separates them. It is an odd feat to create a dramatic story that brings us to tears even without worrying about AIDS. "The Cure" achieved this miracle. "
Joey O'Bryan of The Austin Chronicle gave a mixed review, stating "There are a few good, effective moments in 'The Cure,' but all too often there are lapses in the movie ... In the end, the good intentions of the film are Rarely performed and the good message of this family movie (children with AIDS are people too!) Is sadly delivered with a faint breath of homophobia, then subtracts another half of the star to the absurd placement of 'Butterfinger' products in your face and what you have left is a deliberate, high conceptual competence, family entertainment, [coming-of-age story], with a tear pulled from AIDS that occasionally Works like a commercial candy bar."
Roger Ebert gave a mostly positive review, stating that "There are several passages that are very touching. [...] I was derailed by the nonsense and the conviction of the movie that is funny to deal with."
Leonard Klady of Variety gave a mostly negative review, criticizing the film as being predictable and manipulative, stating that "Director Peter Horton is more assured with his artists, particularly the young protagonists, the strength he brings to the material lies in the development of his relationship. "The Cure" is filled with anecdote that propels the story to its inevitable conclusion, but the wholly absurd plot turns into take-off and the film never recovers."
Stephen Holden gave a mixed review, stating that "When 'The Cure' focuses on the rites of childhood, it evokes with intense clarity the special blend of innocence, curiosity, Although the film is diligently casting itself at a higher level than the typical television sickness movie of the week, it occasionally has lapses in its sentimentality. And his image of the ravages of AIDS is very softened, being reduced to occasional symptoms, and occasional bouts of mild cough. Director Peter Horton and screenwriter Robert Kuhn have created it is a film of pre-teen friends, whose moving emotional appeal does not depend on the fact that one of the main characters has a fatal illness. "