Film Review: 120 Beats Per Minute

Since being clinically observed for the first time in 1981, AIDS has been one of the most aggressive and stigmatised diseases to blight the world. Whilst now largely under control in the Developed World, it’s still terrorising poorer nations; including much of Africa. However, it cut through the homosexual community like a plague in the early 1990s. Much of the delay in finding treatment can be attributed to prejudice, discrimination and homophobia. AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) were formed in New York in the late 1980s. It spread to major cities across the globe. Robin Campillo’s new film 120 Beats Per Minute follows the young members of the Paris group.

As the AIDS epidemic rips through the community, the members of ACT UP Paris are fighting for survival. Their enemies include the government, pharmaceutical companies and public ignorance and apathy. They meet on a weekly basis to debate strategy, discuss politics and plan action, often led by organisers Thibault (Antoine Reinartz) and Sophie (Adèle Haenel). They also like to party. Full of fire and anger, Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) begins a relationship with the shy Nathan (Arnaud Valois). However, both their lives will soon change forever.

120 Beats Per Minute is febrile, powerful and electrifying cinema. Campillo manages to capture the excitement, anger and idealism of youth and being part of a movement. contrasting it perfectly with the ravages and day-to-day torment of the disease. It’s wonderfully shot and brilliantly acted, set to an uplifting and effervescent score by Arnaud Rebotini. 120 Beats Per Minute swept the board at the Césars and won a raft of awards at Cannes. It’s undoubtedly one of the most visceral, kinetic and emotive pieces of cinema you’ll see all year.

120 Beats Per Minute is in cinemas and available On-Demand from 6th April.

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