When “An Early Frost”(Wolfe) was telecast in 1985 it was the first TV movie to bring out then what was considered the truth about the “gay” sickness known as AIDS. It was a courageous act to bring this into homes all over the United States then but it was so told with such sensitivity that it was received as it should have been. It upheld the approach to not only tell a story but to educate us about the disease and show it affected people.
“An Early Frost” takes place in the in the mid 1980s. Michael Pierson, a young gay man discovers he has AIDS in the prime of his life He is open about the illness with both his family and friends and with his co-workers (he is a successful lawyer). At the time the movie was made, death was an almost inevitable fact as a result of AIDS and Pierson and those around him must face this. The movie, for many, was a first time hard look at AIDS. Pierson played by Aidan Quinn is a study in honesty and resolute acceptance to fate.
The movie is a beautiful look at something horrible. All of the actors give wonderful performances that were real to the core, so real, in fact, that the viewer feels the emotions When Pierson tells his parents of his disease and his sexual identity you see brilliance as if the actors are not merely reading lines but saying what is in their hearts.
Looking at the movie in 2007, I can’t help but wonder where NBC had the guts to produce a film so revolutionary and sensitive (for its time). What the film tries to do and succeeds partially is to bring AIDS in to the home and make t a topic for discussion. The only thing that is dated is the fact that now there are therapeutic ways to deal with the disease. The movie was made so early in the history of the disease that it is incredible how correct it was in many areas. It bothers me that we all went through more than twenty years of hell and fear until there was a glimmer of life at the end of the tunnel and the movie made predictions back then that eventually came to be.
Even as old as the film is, it is still extremely valid today and it is way above films that are being made today. It offered no false hope and there was no talk of a miracle cure and this, in itself, is amazing.
The film is far from perfect. Some of the dialog is cheesy and today AIDS is no longer a death sentence like it was when the movie was made. But even so the movie is a milestone. Tender and beautiful, honest and real, “An Early Frost” made us reflect on AIDS when it wasn’t popular or acceptable to do so. It was whispered about until NBC broadcast it into our homes. It was produced gently with no preaching or insulting. Gena Rowlands is, as usual, magnificent; Ben Gazarra is strong and firm until he breaks. They and the rest of the actors made this movie an important step toward raising consciousness. It made us think about the most horrible disease to ever affect mankind.