BPM (Beats Per Minute) – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Let me start by stating that the reason this film is not rated is because it would most likely have gotten an X rating because of one very tender but explicit scene towards the end. Also take note that if you’re easily offended by gay sex or gay politics, then this is not the film for you, stop reading and go pick something else to consider watching this holiday season…
Ok, if you’re still here reading this, let's move on shall we? BPM or also known as 120 BPM (which is the average heart rate) is in French with subtitles and set in the 1990's in France. It follows a group of gay HIV activists and friends that are called ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). They’re a branch of the group that started in the US, in New York City. In the film BPM, we see the group live out the mission statement of the organization which is “ACT UP is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. We advise and inform. We demonstrate, WE ARE NOT SILENT.”
In fact, the first time we meet the core group of people the film follows is at a protest disrupting a meeting that’s going on. The film lets you be a fly on the wall and is shot like you’re in the group doing the demonstration. It’s really exciting and I think a payoff for the scenes that are done in the weekly meetings where all the planning and information for the group is dealt with.
For anyone that has been on any kind of committee of more than three people, then these scenes will trigger your PTSD from living thru the piles of mundane things people will argue over. The director, Robin Campillo, mined his own past as an AIDS activist in the 90’s so all the little infighting and emotional outbursts that happen at these meetings has the ring of truth about them. Unfortunately, I felt like a few of these scenes (most) could have been cut down in length and we would have still gotten the idea of all the hard work it takes to run a group like this.
I liked the film best when it focused on the relationship between Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) a POS, slang they used for HIV positive person, and Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a new member to the group who is not infected with AIDS. BPM does a great job showing the progression of their love story. It shows them going from comrades fighting together in protests, to being friends, to being lovers, and ultimately to being in a committed relationship. In fact, the scenes where Nathan is taking care of Shawn when Shawn is dying from the complications of AIDS are absolutely stunning and riveting.
BPM is not for everyone. It’s gritty and unflinching as it shows their war against AIDS and the humanity of dealing with such a slow and painful death. It’s not a perfect film, but it is worth seeing. Case in point, France is entering it as their submission for Best Foreign Film at the next Oscars. And, at its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, it won critical acclaim and the Grand Prix award.
Only because I think it could have been much shorter, I give it a B+ rating. I hope you will go see this poignant film. If you do go, take someone you love with you because at it’s core, the film is about who you love, the act of loving, and the early loss of the dearly loved.
Directed by Robin Campillo
Written By Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 140min
Drama / Foreign
Limited Release Angelika Film Center
Starring: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adele Haenel, Antoine Reinartz
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.