120 Beats Per Minute ★★★★☆

A strong contender, especially under Almodovar’s aegis, is this fine work from Robin Campillo, set among the Paris branch of AIDS protest group Act Up in the early 90s.

It takes us into the political anger of AIDS victims and their fight for recognition from pharmaceutical companies and Francois Mitterand’s government.

A great ensemble cast, including Adele Haenel and newcomer Nahuel Perez Biscayart, debate the best way to get attention for their plight in a series of meetings.  These events are intercut with their sit-ins, gay pride marches, corporate ambushes, school stunts and scenes in nightclubs dancing to Bronski Beat, or Mr Fingers’ What About This Love?. There’s a lot of medical detail, too, on viruses and technical advice, all very true to the times.

It’s very funny, very committed, sexy, serious and superbly performed, all cleverly put together by the director who’s previously collaborated  as writer with Palme d’Or winner Laurent Cantet as well as scripting the spooky TV series The Returned.

I thought maybe there were a couple of meeting scenes too many, which slightly bogged the momentum down and hindered the emotional arc, although I can’t deny I cried buckets over the brilliant final section, of course, which really focuses on what it’s like to die young and to care for someone dying, to watch them fade away. It totally brings home what a terrible disease AIDS is and how utterly clueless and scared anyone was about it, how in the dark even those dying from it were, but how every drug was failing them.

Prizes await, I’m sure.

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