“Longtime Companion” was the first major movie to deal with the AIDS epidemic and that was in 1990. The movie follows the lives of a small group of friends from the time that AIDS was first mentioned and referred to as the gay cancer (in “The New York Times” in 1981). When we knew nothing about AIDS it was called GRID (gay related immune disorder). “Longtime Companion” deals with the way if effects the lives of the friends as they look at it with the “it can’t happen to me” mentality until we see fewer and fewer friends live as the movie progresses.
The term longtime companion is the way “The New York Times” referred to the surviving partner in the obituaries of the times. During the movie, the viewer also feels as if he has become a longtime companion. We share the lives of the men in the movie from the discos, to the bathhouses, to Fire Island, and we feel their grief as they watch their friends die. In this stunning film, written with taste and compassion, the characters are realistic and the actors who portray them are excellent. The emotion is riveting and it is rare to see homosexual love portrayed so beautifully in a production made by a Hollywood studio. We see that gay men are indeed equal to straight men and that loving is a human emotion. As AIDS became the central event in our lives, it became matter if fact that death was coming at the prime of life. As an awareness of AIDS and giving the disease a human face, the movie is splendid.
It is about an era of gay life that shocked us and yet was applauded by others. In a frank and direct manner, “Longtime Companion” showed the awful aspects of the disease and the effect that death had on our heroes in the film. AIDS made no apologies as it devastated us. It took our brothers and sisters, our partners, our friends.
What really makes this movie so special, aside from being the first film to deal with AIDS, is the way it depicts gay men and their friends. There are no stereotypes, no caricatures. The men we see here are depicted honestly in their struggle with death and illness. It is a wonderful portrayal of the events of the times. It shows the sense of confusion we harbored about the disease that was robbing us of life and love, the misinformation, the lost feeling and the angst of not knowing what to do for those suffering and for their friends and their companions.
Every performance in the movie is stellar. As we are introduced to the group of friends, we spend time with them. We vacation on Fire Island, the most famous of gay resorts and we are in the hospital visiting with them as they or their friends and lovers are struck with AIDS. Obviously it was not easy to make a film of this kind when it was made but the delicate and honest script and excellent acting make this is a landmark film about the disease that had, by the time the movie was made, taken the lives of many young men—both straight and gay.
This is a brave, no a heroic, film It does not paint a beautiful picture of those dying from AIDS. Instead it shows the reality of the horrible death that many suffered and the devastation of those that loved them and cared for them. It captures the honesty about AIDS and its effects and does so through very touchy vignettes of the lives of a group of friends. Your heart will ache as you watch the film—for the loss of a character and for the love you see.
The ending of the film is one off the most amazing and heart wrenching experiences of my life. Moving and celebratory, it is a surreal episode that brings everyone together—the dead and the living—at a big party o the beach. It appears to say to me that, with hope and activism, with attention to and financial aid, we may find a solution to the plague that has taken so much from us.