In case you hadn’t been paying attention during the preceding two hours and 15 minutes, director Robin Campillo’s unblinking tale of gay love and AIDS activism in ‘90s Paris culminates by cutting between dramatic political protest and emotionally intense lovemaking. Because for the members of ACT UP, the personal is most decidedly political: they and their friends are dying, and they want — no, demand — public and private help in finding treatment and stopping the spread. Campillo tries to give both personal and political equal weight (or at least equal screen time), and proves more adept at the latter: never have highly regulated meetings to propose policy and review results been so richly engaging. (The primary conflict here is with a pharmaceutical company that seems to be dragging its feet on a promising approach, though it’s not exactly clear just why. What is clear is the group’s outrage, intelligence, intensity, and complexity.) But the personal side makes up in exposure and endurance what it lacks in actual personalities. So yes, we’re given a searing Last Handjob, but everything we know about the lovers involved has to do with their sexual history. It is always harrowing to watch a person die slowly, wasted by disease. But just imagine if we’d actually known him. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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