I thought that Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys was a structured, beautiful film, but it was perhaps a little bit too structured. No such problems with Cannes runner-up BPM (Beats Per Minute), which is a brilliant film and has a heavy emotional impact, but is maybe a little bit haphazard. The initial structure of the film suggests that the story will be about the lives of members of ACT UP and their relationship with being HIV Positive (with some Negative), both in and out of the meetings. I received the initial impression that different characters would be the focus and the film would feel like something of an ensemble piece.
But after an opening that shows the members crashing a meeting and throwing a balloon with fake blood, intercut with a discussion of the effectiveness of the actions, I really thought that the meetings would be the foundation on which the film was built. I was ready to anoint Nahuel Perez Biscayart as the standout performer as Sean, although as it turns out, he’s the star of the film. Biscayart still gives an incredible performance, youthful at the beginning, aging himself throughout (no exact passage of time is given), and though he is triumphant in carrying the film, it would have been interesting to learn a little bit more about Adèle Haenel’s Sophie, and some of the other members of ACT UP.
But the idea of HIV/AIDS activism, so far removed from the mainstream of the time, (how long before the French government even acknowledged the virus and its existence), but yet so relevant in an age removed from the time. The modern form of activism often leans towards violence (either confronting or perhaps even practicing), so for the ACT UP crew to act in the way that they do (did) in a mostly bloodless coup and yet still getting the message across that people are dying (though sadly, that message isn’t delivered soon enough), suggests that there is so much work that still needs to be done. It is a movie out of time that feels extremely timely, and though it could have used perhaps a little less time in terms of length, the ending is exceedingly powerful and makes the film a must-see.