★★★★★ | Holding The Man
A moving and very emotional film about a gay couple during the height of the AIDS crises is beautifully told in the new film Holding the Man.
Holding the Man is based on the 1995 book of the same name by Timothy Conigrave. It’s a poignant true life love story between two Australian men, Conigrave and John Caleo, who met and fell in love at an all boys school in Melbourne in the mid-70’s. It’s a relationship that lasted 15 years.
Holding the Man is one of the better, or perhaps maybe the best, of all the films that’s dealt with the AIDS crisis. It’s a movie that simply tells a story, a love story so enduring and epic that it’s irrelevant whether the characters are gay or straight. Plus it’s a story that some of us, who were around in the 1980s and 1990s when friends and partners were dying right and left from AIDS, can unfortunately relate to.
Ryan Corr plays Timothy Conigrave, while Craig Stott plays John Caleo. Holding the Man is directed by Australian Neil Armfield (2006’s Candy with Heath Ledger), with a screenplay by Tommy Murphy, who adapted it for the stage in 2006.
Stott is the football player and football loving Caleo, a man who anyone could fall in love with. But it’s Conigrave, an aspiring actor, who tackles and gets him. (In Australian Football holding the man occurs when a player is tackled without the ball). They start dating and almost immediately fall in love. But these two men were exploring their sexuality in the 1970s, a time when HIV and AIDS had yet to rear it’s ugly head. So it was a time when gay men were getting infected both in the US and Europe – and Australia was no exception – without knowing it. It is 1985 when they discover that they are both HIV positive.
Holding the Man continues to tell the delicate and ever increasing sad story of these two men and their caring and loving relationship, how Caleo was the first to get sick, how their parents and family dealt with both men’s illness, and how Conigrave coped with Caleo’s deterioration.
Corr and Stott are terrific and give it their all (Anthony LaPaglia is especially good as Caleo’s stern and unforgiving father). But it’s in the storytelling where this film excels. Credit goes to director Armfield and writer Murphy for successfully bringing this story to the screen. It’s a story that’s been told a few times (Philadelphia), but not in such a meaningful, and very realistic, way. However it’s Conigrave’s book on which this film is based, it’s his book about his relationship with Caleo, a sort of love letter to him, and we’re all very lucky to be able to see what an amazing, yet heartbreaking, relationship it was. This film is highly recommended.
For a list of cinemas currently showing Holding the Man, please click here.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.