The Courier-Mail

Love on the wing

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Australian films do a lot of things well, but the telling of a love story with real warmth, intimacy and emotion has always seemed beyond the scope of many of our filmmakers. The new romantic drama

Holding the Man turns that observatio­n on its head with disarming ease.

This compelling true story of two Melbourne schoolboys who fall in love despite their Catholic upbringing and the intense misgivings of their parents powerfully connects with the collective heart of an audience. The crowd that I caught

Holding the Man with recently just could not hold back their feelings — both happy and sad — in a way I have rarely experience­d when it comes to a local production.

The film is adapted from Timothy Conigrave’s bestsellin­g memoir of the same name, published the year after its author’s death.

A successful later transition to the stage — where it played to great success around the globe — has obviously laid a solid foundation for what transpires on screen.

Events kick off in the mid1970s, when a dutiful highschool drama student named Tim (a wonderful performanc­e from Ryan Corr) is harbouring a massive crush on his football- star classmate John (Craig Stott). After an awkward start, a mutual attraction takes hold when John wakes up in hospital after suffering a concussion in a brutal on-field collision.

Tim pays the patient a friendly visit, and something clicks between the pair that may not have been there before.

As a close relationsh­ip blooms between Tim and John, the intense pressure of keeping their star-crossed bond a secret is kept at bay by both a shared sense of humour (the first half of the film is often very funny) and an unshakable belief in each other.

Later, as the storytelli­ng chronology skips back and forth across time, this loving link is tested to the utmost.

Not only when Tim and John are both diagnosed HIV-positive at the outset of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, but also as their respective families respond (or fail to respond) to their plight.

Beautifull­y written, directed and acted, Holding the Man covers an immense area of demanding terrain across its running time.

Though fated by the tragic nature of its story to put all viewers through an emotional wringer, the film earns the right to do so by speaking a personal, yet universal truth that anyone with a heart will immediatel­y understand.

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