The personal and the political are as vitally connected as the chicken and the egg in Robin Campillo’s moving and inspiring Cannes Grand Prix winner. The writer/director draws on his own experience as a member of AIDS activist organisation ACT UP in 90s Paris, embedding an intimately observed love story within a vivid evocation of the dynamics of radical protest.
Hunky Arnaud Valois plays Nathan, a wary, HIV-negative newcomer to the movement who falls for firecracker Sean (incandescent Argentinean actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), HIV-positive and irresistibly impatient with the group’s more pragmatic leadership.
Campillo wrote Laurent Cantet’s The Class and this year’s The Workshop. His skill for catching the currents of a group discussion is as persuasive as ever. The issues that once exercised ACT UP take on clear and present life in 2017 as the young activists brainstorm, strategise dramatic interventions and storm the institutions that would let them die.
“It’s both devastating and heartening to watch, these horrifyingly young people bravely confronting vast and seemingly unmovable systems – government, pharmaceutical companies, etc. – while attending to their own fears, their own fragile mortality...
The film’s political and moral weight should not overshadow the artistry of its design, nor the quiet profundity of its unreserved and admirable approach to gay intimacy. Campillo has given his movie the breath of true life. It grieves and triumphs and haunts with abounding grace and understanding, its heartbeat thumping with genuine, undeniable resonance.”— Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair