Set in 1986, when Aids was a death sentence and only thought of as being a sickness that gay men could get. This film shows Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) an electrician who loves drink, drugs, sex, and the rodeo making bets. He always seems to be coughing, sick and collapses ending up in hospital. Finding unusual blood work, they run extra tests discovering he has Aids. Not only that, it is so progressive he has just 30 days to live. He freaks out when he is informed of his ‘faggot illness’ and leaves.
Thinking better of it, he starts to research what causes aids. Discovering that it can be caused by unprotected sex he realises yes he truly does have the illness. Goes back to the doctor (Jessica Alba) looking for treatments he has researched, which she can not give him because they are not approved by the FCA. She tells him about a drug that might help, but only half the people taking it are receiving the real drug, half get a sugar pill.
Unhappy with that Ron decides to bribe a nurse to bring him the real drug, the nurse does this a few times and then decides to take his money and just give him the address of a doctor in mexico that might be able to help him. Ron is angry and tries to start a fight, but the nurse leaves him collapsed on the floor from his illness. He ends up back in hospital with a gay trans man on his room, who tries to help him. But Ron’s homophobic ideals make that impossible. He finds out that Rayon (Jared Leto) is selling half of her drugs to a friend he gets the idea of making the same kind of deal. Heading to Mexico he hunts out the Doctor and alternative therapies, finding a way to extend his life.
Returning to USA with boxes of the drugs, he recruits Rayon to help him take the drugs to the gay men who need it as they will not deal with him directly with his attitude. Time passes, the business grows, as does Ron’s involvement as he starts traveling the world to find the best unapproved drugs bringing them back for himself and others. Constantly under the watch and attack of the FDA.
This was a film which first drew my interest in 2014 when it released, as a friend of mine had just found out he had HIV and I was struggling to understand what it meant. All I knew about Aids was Freddie Mercury died of it. Gay’s often caught it, but that wasn’t the only way so always watch out for needles. And that it was a death sentence. I went to the cinema screening release week, but found it so realistic to how my friend was feeling I had to walk out of the screen. It is only now, two years on when he has stabilised I actually felt able to go back and watch the whole production. I am glad that I did, because I was amazed at the strength of characterisation in the storyline. How much you feel the raw emotion of Ron trying anything he can to just survive a little longer.
The transformation of his character from a homophobic jerk, who wouldn’t even yet Rayon touch him to tease out a muscle cramp in the hospital. To them becoming friends, even though he didn’t understand a gay man wanting to be a woman. To stressing over what she eats or if she smokes weed to make sure she stays healthy. To even getting in a fight with one of his old friends in her defence! You can see in Ron’s portrayal how society has changed towards both people being gay and having HIV/Aids. How far we have come in my lifetime in equal rights. I found this not only informative, but also entertaining. It may have dated ideas, but unlike some of the recent releases for LGBT films it shows the past in a way that still connects to the present. I would recommend this to anyone who wants the classic ‘something different’ to watch tonight. You will be surprised how much you enjoy it. I watched it twice in a few days!
To watch the trailer please click here
Sarah Beth James