120 Battements par Minute (120 Beats Per Minute)
7th October 2017 2.00pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
10th October 2017 5.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
Political protest movies are always thrilling to watch, particularly when done well. 120 BPM is an emotional yet colourful depiction of the ACT-UP AIDS protests in France during the 1990s. In his second feature to explore homosexuality and gay relationships, director Robin Campillo gets personal as he delves into his own experiences with the ACT-UP group.
A large portion of the film is spent on the protests themselves, which include graphic displays like smearing fake blood across the walls of a pharmaceutical company that don’t cater to the needs of AIDS victims. One gets caught up in the action, wanting to join them in their rallies and shout for the cause.
But Campillo’s personal attachment to the subject matter clearly clouds his judgement in the cutting room. At almost two-and-a-half hours, the picture feels far too long and the director can’t seem to organise his points of focus. When one of the more outspoken members of the group, Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), forms a relationship with an HIV-negative member, Nathan (Arnaud Valois), the film shifts its focus to them. The protests thereafter feel more like background and don’t capture the viewer’s emotional attention as much as Sean and Nathan do.
Biscayart is a terrific lead and none of the actors can match his explosive personality. Campillo puts this character through hell, and doesn’t censor the horrid details of his illness.
120 BPM is an endurance test, with pockets of fun. It’s clear to see how ACT-UP made such an impact with disturbing demonstrations, and they’re fascinating to observe. The film may be too long, but one never grows sick of the characters. They all possess a great moral intelligence, which unite to make a memorable Us-Against-the-World piece. It may even inspire viewers to rise up themselves.
120 Battements par Minute (120 Beats Per Minute) is released nationwide on 6th April 2018.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for 120 Battements par Minute (120 Beats Per Minute) here: