Indie Spotlight: Holding the Man (2015)

Written by Film

There are many films whose fans consider ‘indie’; these fans think that they alone are aware these movies exist, when in actuality they have spread to as many people as the Spanish Flu, with a similar level of enjoyment.

The prime example is the abomination that is 500 Days of Summer: despite being distributed by Fox, produced by Dune Entertainment and grossing millions of dollars, there are still people out there who insist it’s an indie flick.

The film was based on the posthumous memoir of the same name by Timothy Conigrave (1959-1994). Image: Wikimedia

Why not drown out their attention seeking with a genuinely good, genuinely independent film? Holding the Man was released in 2015, and depicts the relationship between Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo. The two meet in high school in 1976, and as news of their relationship reaches their teachers and family, they weather misunderstanding, stigma and homophobia. What sustains them is their love and their passion, both of which they will need in spades to get through the imminent AIDS epidemic.

Holding the Man is an LGBT romance film that manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of the genre, without losing an ounce of what makes it great. Some find LGBT films preachy or made to push an agenda, even though this is the exact thing a film is meant to do. Another word for ‘agenda’ is ‘narrative’. Another word for ‘narrative’ is ‘story’.

This story is more focussed on the trajectory of the relationship between two people who love each other; that that trajectory happens to touch on key queer issues – such as alienation from family after coming out, or AIDS – is almost coincidental, so well told is this couple’s story.

That’s not to say the film isn’t afraid to discuss those issues. Holding the Man – based on a real life story – could easily airbrush parts of the book on which it’s based in service of telling a more typical romance story, but opts instead to depict not love, but queer love. It upsets you, but in telling this story of human compassion and bravery, it makes you glad to have the depth to be hurt.

Last modified: 20th September 2020

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