Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Australia, 2015. Screen Australia, Goalpost Pictures, Snow Republic, John Barry Group. Screenplay by Tommy Murphy, based on the book by Timothy Conigrave. Cinematography by Germain McMicking. Produced by Kylie Du Fresne. Music by Alan John. Production Design by Josephine Ford. Costume Design by Alice Babidge. Film Editing by Dany Cooper. Podcast: Bad Gay Movies
Timothy Conigrave’s memoir about falling in love with John Caleo and their fifteen years together before losing Caleo to AIDS was published ten days after Conigrave’s own passing from the same illness, later turned into a play and then this sensitive if sometimes overly sentimental movie. Ryan Corr and Craig Stott play the lovers in question, who meet in high school and experience a refreshing lack of denial or conflict with each other before embracing their feelings, but it being mid-seventies Australia are also subjected to the intolerance of their families and the Jesuits who run their school. The years pass, their careers progress and they have whatever problems apply to a long-term relationship (monogamy, etc) before their being part of the great tragedy of the AIDS epidemic brings their commitment to each other to the fore. The period details never ring true, you always feel like you’re watching modern people dress up and play “seventies” pretend, while the plotting favours far too many scenes with disapproving parents and not nearly enough of the lovers in question. The two leads are extremely sympathetic despite the lack of chemistry between the actors, but watching this film would lead one to believe that Conigrave was only interested in his lover’s story in as much as it related to himself: we barely get to know Caleo, only a few touches of who he is and what makes him tick. There’s a genuine sympathy engendered by many scenes that still makes it an affecting viewing experience, not to mention some wonderful sex scenes, particularly capturing the pleasure of watching these two go from reckless youth to wiser adulthood before being robbed of the experience of growing old. Kerry Fox gives the standout performance in her few moments as Conigrave’s hard-edged mother; her reaction to her son’s news about his illness over the kitchen sink is the film’s smartest character observation and provides so much more drama in its restraint than many of the more indulgent moments in the film.