Review: Holding the Man

Holding The Man could have been a mess. The source material is a memoir cherished by the gay community, riddled with complex emotional subjectivity and fantasy, that became an acclaimed stage play.

Without the deftest, most skilled individuals in key roles, this might have been a meandering and worthy emotional rollercoaster, or a methodical and lacklustre rendition of a live performance, or, worst of all, a soapbox drowning its own story in anger over a series of important issues.

Instead, Holding The Man is a gorgeous, tragic, love story, beautifully realised for the screen and by degrees both incredibly moving and wonderfully entertaining – though be warned, this is a full hanky affair as the ugly crying sets in towards the end.

It is the true story of two men, Tim and John, boys when they met at an exclusive Melbourne private school, who fell in love and embarked on a life together despite the overwhelming pressures that mounted against them. Ryan Corr and Craig Stott are extraordinary as the pair, never failing to shine in a tale spanning more than a decade, with family backlash and the horrific impact of AIDS among the sea of troubles the two are forced to navigate.

This is Neil Armfield’s first return to screen direction since Candy. While that film was critically acclaimed it became the flagship for the “bleak” cinema movement that crippled Australian cinema audiences in the last decade. Holding The Man could so easily have gone the same way as it is loaded with dark themes including AIDS, societal repression, homophobia, infidelity and death.

Instead, it is the simple tale of two lovers that remains front and centre, with a visual style that revels in its ‘80s period setting without ever overwhelming the story. It is beautiful. It is tragic. And it is an absolute must-see.

‘Holding The Man’ movie times