Mark Reviews Movies

BPM (Beats Per Minute)


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Robin Campillo

Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Ariel Borenstein, Félix Maritaud, Aloïse Sauvage, Simon Bourgade, Médhi Guélat, Coralie Russier, Catherine Vinatier, Théophile Ray, Saadia Bentaïeb

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 2:20

Release Date: 10/20/17 (limited); 11/17/17 (wider)

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | November 16, 2017

BPM (Beats Per Minute) begins with the political conversations and actions of the group, and as its story progresses, the film's focus tightens to the plight of the individual. It's the old notion that the personal is political, brought to tragic life in the experiences of an HIV/AIDS activist group in Paris during the early 1990s. The group is ACT UP, and its members are facing indifference from politicians, pharmaceutical companies, and the gay community for which they are advocating.

The politicians don't seem to want to do anything. A major drug company has a new treatment for the disease, but tests for the medication are being withheld for reasons that don't make sense. There's a culture of silence about the disease among parts of the gay community of Paris, as if not talking about HIV and AIDS will somehow make it disappear. The group organizes stunts—such as throwing balloons filled with fake blood—and protests, but their actions are met with either the same indifference or, when people think they might have gone too far, new outrage.

This is intriguing as a time capsule of activism and apathy, but it's when writer/director Robin Campillo's screenplay narrows its view to the experience of Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) that the film finds an emotional core for its political observations. Sean, a founding member of the Paris branch of ACT UP, is HIV-positive at the film's start. His condition rapidly deteriorates, and he finds himself at odds with the group, as it becomes painfully clear that their actions will not work in time to save him.

The other key figure is Nathan (Araud Valois), a newer member of the group who starts a romantic relationship with Sean. If Sean represents direct tragedy of the disease, Nathan serves as the often forgotten side of it. The final scenes of BPM (Beats Per Minute) briefly return to the story's group dynamic, elevating both the heartbreak and the sense that every life is, in its own way, a political act.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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