Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar-winning performance as Ron Woodruff, a Texan diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s, really is incredible.
The film begins by showing you the extent of Woodruff’s hedonistic, ignorant and prejudiced character. But he’s soon diagnosed as HIV positive and given 30 days to live.
The count-down of the days then begins to unfold in the film, starting with Woodruff’s grief and denial reaction. Then his curiosity sets in, which helps him research and understand HIV and what’s happening to him. This leads to his acceptance of his condition, which is when his fight and determination kicks-in.
With the trials of a new drug taking too long and not even proving to be successful, Woodruff takes matters into his own hands to try and survive – against the odds. Before long he has identified alternative drugs and medicines that are proving to help, better and pro-long the life of people living with HIV at this time. He then works the system to create his own ‘Buyers Club’ to provide the alternative medicines to those in need. Subsequently, Woodruff manages to turn 30 days into seven years, while helping others in the process.
What stands out the most is the complete 360 turnaround in Woodruff’s character pre and post diagnosis. In many ways, being HIV positive helps to make him a better person and drives him to give something back to society. The film also shows the huge lack of understanding about HIV at this time (the doctors wearing masks for starters) and the serious stigma and prejudice that people living with HIV were faced with.
Sadly, while research and medicines have moved on leaps and bounds since the 80s, there’s still a serious lack of understanding surrounding HIV and, people living with it are unfortunately still stigmatised because of this. I really hope that this film has managed to do some positive work here too.
Although, one thing that also stood-out for me was the fact the film steered away from mentioning safe-sex or condoms. This was evidently the key message of HIV awareness at this time – and still is – so it seems strange that it didn’t feature.
Jared Leto’s performance as transgender Rayon is also outstanding. And the friendship they form as they become partners in crime, is somewhat the great love story of the film. The grocery store scene where Woodruff makes his homophobic (ex) buddy shake Rayon’s hand had me welling up big time! And proved just how far his character had come.
It’s not easy, or cheery viewing because it’s ultimately a story of loss. But the sterling performances and exceptional story still warms your heart.
I’d highly recommend it, especially if, like me, you’re a bit behind on the must-see movies.
The story and Woodruff will stay with you.
Have you seen it? What did you think? Any more must-see movies I need to get watching?