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SIFF ADVANCE: Holding the Man - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF ADVANCE: Holding the Man
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Stories about gay men fighting discrimination, family judgment and AIDS simultaneously in the eighties are a dime a dozen, but that doesn't mean they're not all worth telling. Fighting the Man is a worthy story, although its impact may have been greater as a film had it been made fifteen or more years ago, closer to the publication of the memoir of the same name on which it's based.

This is an Australian film, and an Australian story: Timothy (Ryan Corr) is an aspiring actor who falls in love with his high school rugby teammate, John (Craig Scott). One set of parents is much more judgmental than the other, but even Tim's more lenient parents are compelled to be what they feel is pragmatic: "It's illegal," notes his father.

The timeline jumps from 1976 to 1985, back to 1976, to 1988 and 1991. These two face moralizing and judgment in the early years, but are notably defiant about their love for each other. Then Tim goes to acting school, separation tests them, and they branch out with sexual conquests. They both wind up infected with HIV, which makes for a predictably sad ending. Spoiler alert, I guess? Well, in the vast majority of cases people with HIV in the eighties wound up dead. There are some exceptions. It might be nice to see some more of those stories, the people still walking around today who lived through all that carnage but somehow escaped it.

Holding the Man doesn't focus on that carnage, it focuses on these two. And it's pretty well edited, for a movie that spans fifteen years, something that usually bogs down a movie. Not too much of the story here feels gleaned over. Certainly some might feel it is if they have read the memoir, but I haven't, and most viewers won't have either.

This must be a pretty high-profile movie in Australia, with its big-name supporting costars: an effectively used Anthony LaPaglia as John's dad; a criminally underused Guy Pearce as Tim's dad. Even Geoffrey Rush turns up in an amusing role as a homophobic drama teacher.

This is an undeniably engaging and touching film, although the only thing that feels all that new about its content and themes is that it's from another country we don't see a lot of movies from. Otherwise it's, sadly, a bit typical. The performances are exemplary enough to elevate it. It's still worth seeing.

Craig Scott and Ryan Corr spend the mid-seventies through the early nineties HOLDING THE MAN.

Overall: B+
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