Buddies ★★★★½

America, AIDS is not a gay illness. It's everybody's problem. Release all the money for research and care.

Finally. Detailed in my review for Persona that while I have had some really exceptional first-time viewings this month, nothing had reached the mark where I could wholeheartedly say that I loved it. Well, it took until literally the last day of the month, but I found something. Arthur J. Bressan, director of the documentary Gay USA, gives us Buddies, which is at least according to its poster, the first dramatic film about the AIDS epidemic. Only two years after its release, Bressan would be one of thousands in the U.S. during the 80's that would pass from complications with HIV. I could never say enough for all of the men, women, and children who lost their lives. People that could have done real good for our nation, whether through art, activism, politics, anything and everything, reduced to statistics and names on tombstones. Something that could have been dealt with directly was instead something that faced scowls and crossed arms. To say it's horrendous and a blotch on the history of America would be an understatement. However, Buddies does something that some members of the LGBTQ+ community might even think could be impossible. Based on the era it's from, it does sometimes look and feel like an after-school special, more than willing to dive into heightened drama in certain moments. That said, and what truly makes Buddies a great movie even by today's standards of storytelling is its emotional honesty, compelling performances, and a real sense of humor and joy from other moments. AIDS takes away your ability to live, but it does not take away your will to live. You still have your desires, you think about all of things you love, all of the things you hate, what you wish you could do before it's all over. The conversations between Robert and David feature some of the most naturalistic and engaging dialogue I've heard in a film as of late. Buddies through its text and its characters has an incredible grasp on the depth and complexities of gay life, an understanding that some want things different from others; that there is real anger from some when they feel like they are denied the simple act to live, and even if they are "allowed" to live, they have to hide who they truly are from the world. It's a somber movie because of course it is, but there are some really beautiful and engrossing moments in here that make it a must-see for anyone who is a fan of dramatic film, because it's real people in a real struggle. If we are (rightfully) told to never forget about 9/11 and the Holocaust, then we should never be able to forget these folks either.


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