Holding the Man Film Review

JMC Student Luke Erickson reviews the recent release 'Holding the Man'....

What makes an Australian story an Australian story? Does it have to involve criminals in Western Sydney with htm.jpgsawed-off shotguns swearing and joking as they hatch some scheme for a big score? Do you need to have shots of an ageing, rusted Toyota ute powdered with a thick layer of red dust, tearing across an open expanse of the outback in order to be recognised as a local yarn?

For all of its diversity, one might be forgiven for assuming that Australia is populated entirely by either hardened criminals, the cops who are chasing them, or small-town country bumpkins with hearts as big as the Big Merino (and that’s big).
Do we need to tell stories of these stereotypes to sell our films abroad? Are the only kinds of films that can bring domestic audiences into cinemas utilising familiar settings and plots and are therefore a safe ticket purchase?
Holding the Man reinforces that we do, in fact, have a desire to tell personal, moving, and socially relevant tales.

Holding the Man started out life as a 1995 autobiography of author and activist Timothy Conigrave, later adapted for the stage in 2006. 
It tells the story of how Timothy (Ryan Corr), as a schoolboy at Melbourne’s Xavier College in 1975, developed feelings for captain of the football team John Caleo (Craig Stott). Against the backdrop of their strict Roman-Catholic college, the pair enter a relationship in secret.
As word gets out about what is thought to be their ‘illicit’ same-sex relationship, the pair are in turn rebuked and marginalised by many who were previously kind to them.
As the film moves into the 1980s, the burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic threatens to tear apart the life which Timothy and John have built together, and thus the strength of their bond will face the greatest-possible test.

Holding the Man is a delicate and nuanced piece, which, without equally delicate and nuanced performances, would topple the film irretrievably into dour sentimentality. Thankfully, the company lead by the impressive team of Corr and Stott manages to breathe life and joy into the often heartbreaking struggles of the real life subjects they are depicting.
Presented simply and earnestly, their love story captures the awkward nerves of teenage flirtation, through to the soul-deep connection of life partners; universal human experiences which transcend both time and sexual orientation.
They are supported by a mix of veterans like Guy Pierce, Anthony LaPaglia, and Geoffrey Rush, as well as relative newcomers such as rising star Sarah Snook, who each bring their own unique colour and texture to the piece.

In what is a necessary holdover from the staged production, the same actors play the lead characters in all of the time periods represented in the film. This choice is initially jarring, as the actors are clearly too old to appear like junior preparatory students, but it allows the audience to form a bond with these characters early on, as well as the opportunity to watch their romance blossom and hardships arise later as they age. A little suspension of disbelief here goes a long way in the early scenes of the film, though this is admittedly a minor criticism.

It is not possible to view this film in a political vacuum, and nor should it be. Holding the Man is a celebration of life and love, and it is important that stories like this be seen, that the representation of the LGBTQI community never be supressed or diminished. Or, as an elderly man at the screening I attended put it “I think someone should tell Tony Abbot to see this.”

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To find out more about studying film at JMC Academy, click here... 

Compare Luke's review to another JMC Academy student's Lilliane Moffat...