Note: this review has some very light and general spoilers that probably won't be much news to those who know enough about the story to be reading about it here.
An extremely well intended adaptation of Timothy Conigave's memoir of the great love of life set in Australia in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. The film did make me cry. And it was nice to see a gay love story where both the deep romance and intense sexuality of these two men were treated as utterly normal by the film -- if not by the society the two men were living in at the time. I also appreciate the way it pulled no punches on showing the devastating physical effects of AIDS in the days where treatment options were pathetically limited and ineffective. So there is much going for it.
But, frustratingly, some of that good stuff is off-set with cinematic miss-steps, at least to my eyes: E.g. Casting Aussie stars Guy Pearce, Kerry Fox, and Geoffrey Rush in cameos so small that their presence seems more weird and distracting than involving (Anthony LaPaglia also takes a small role, but one with enough meat that at least his presence seems to make sense).
Overuse of period songs: To a point this device worked well, but soon it started to feel like every other scene had a familiar period pop song as score – most a little too on-the-nose in their lyrics or meaning. This is a particular flaw at the very end of the film, when the crashing in of an up-tempo pop song short-circuits a moment of great emotional intensity I would have liked to have been able to sit with and emotionally experience.
And while it's great that a gay love story can now feel little different than a straight one in style, that's maybe not great when that style sometimes feels as familiar and mainstream as any slightly bland Hollywood movie. Add to that, some of the worst age make up I can remember seeing in a long time (trying desperately to make two very adult looking actors come off as teenagers at the start of the story), and a tendency to skip too quickly over the character elements of these two men that weren't directly about their relationship -- so that even after over 2 hours I felt frustrated that I didn't know more about these two as individuals -- which would have given added shape to the story of how their lives joined into one.
A worthwhile and admirable film, but one that I couldn't quite get myself to love, no matter how much I wanted to.