In the French AIDS drama BPM (120 Beats Per Minute), the acting under the direction of Robin Campillo is so natural that it regularly feels like a documentary.
The series of organically staged scenes make it appear that a film crew is merely dropping in on actual early ‘90s Act Up Paris meetings, protests and parades led by the fearless Sophie (Adèle Haenel), as well as the romance between Nathan (Arnaud Valois) and Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart).
The realistic tone also applies to the film’s bedroom scenes, which don’t shy from the intense romantic passion missing from Call Me By Your Name, and also the more harrowing aspects of the activists’ lives, namely persecution, illness and the deaths of friends within the movement.
But while heartache and loss are unavoidable consequences of Act Up members’ dedication to the cause, Campillo and his collaborators likewise excel at depicting the tremendous gains that come from deep interpersonal connections, forming a magnificent emotional balance.
By the end of BPM, there’s a sense that viewers have been in the room with these invigorating young people through their highs and lows, and it’s a feeling that won’t soon be shaken.
Grade: A. Not rated but with adult language and themes and strong sexual content. Starts Jan. 19 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: The Orchard)