Holding the Man

This film version of the book by Timothy Conigrave is outstanding.  I always worry that film versions of books I love will fall short but this film enhances the story of high school boyfriends who have a life long relationship, cut short by AIDS.  The book is a poignant memoir of falling in love with a boy at school and continuing this relationship through university and into their young adult lives.  The fact that their relationship had to endure the negative views of family and others only lends the story more power.

The film version brings the book to life and shows what can only be imagined, especially the later scenes when Tim’s partner John is in the final stages of AIDS.  Their determination to remain together is inspiring.  In one scene, John’s father makes clear to his son and boyfriend that he thinks he is entitled to a section of the will.  His motivation for this is odd but the response from the couple is worth seeing, across faces and without words they are able to convey their feelings at this development.

In the end, the advantage of the film is that it can show the moments that have been written about. The courage of the boys who refuse to be ashamed when their relationship is revealed is, perhaps, more powerful on the screen than on the page.

I spent the whole film waiting for the ending which was inevitable, given the subject matter, and known to me in advance since I had read the book.  However, I still hoped that the outcome might be different for these two men.  The film is topped and tailed by Tim trying desperately to remember a detail for his book, a detail that is given urgency in the grief he is experiencing.  He receives the answer he hopes for and the film ends with the information that he finished the book.  The book must be read.  The film must be seen. Both are important!  Both are in my hinterland.

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