Holding the Man Review

“… a very touching, very personal story, but unfortunately it missed a few marks along the way.”

Yesterday I watched Holding the Man and it made me realize that I’ve been watching a lot of movies about gay dudes recently. Holding the Man is a movie about Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo, two men who fall in love in Australia in the 1970’s. The film follows their relationship through all of the good times, and the almost disproportionate amount of bad times. It’s also really sad. So let’s get into the review.

So Holding the Man is based on a true story, and the book on which the movie was based was actually written by the main character Timothy. Now this makes everything all the more touching, but with stories like this you also run into problems with pacing. Everything that Timothy wrote down seemed important to him, becasue to him his entire relationship with John was the most important thing in the world. Unfortunately we aren’t Timothy, so what may have seemed important to him doesn’t carry the same weight with us. This means that throughout the film there are parts that feel very slow. For instance the beginning of the film, where the two men (or boys at the time, I guess) meet was really sweet, but there was a lot that could have been trimmed off. And then in the middle of the movie we get into a weird bit of non-linear storytelling which worked, but I felt it sometimes focused on things that held little relevance to the audience. I always feel weird critiquing movies like this because obviously it is such a personal story, so who am I to say what does or doesn’t work? Luckily the end of the film brings back a lot of emotion, and kind of makes up for the pacing issues found in the rest of the movie.

As far as the rest of the film goes, there are just a few things that I have to mention that don’t really connect to one another. We’ll call this the ‘grab-bag section’. First of all, the soundtrack was great. It’s kind of a given when you think of the time period in which the film is set, but it should be mentioned anyway. Second of all, I find it strange that they chose to have the adult actors play high school students. It’s always painfully obvious when someone is 30 and playing a teenager, and Holding the Man is no exception. And what was up with all of the weird fucking hair in this movie? Honestly, it looked like they were all about to break off and join a Mötley Crüe cover band. And I also have to mention that Holding the Man features the fastest use of ‘title said by character’ in any movie I’ve ever seen. Literally two minutes in someone yells “He’s holding the man!”, which I found hilarious.

And finally I feel that I have to discuss the performances in Holding the Man. There were a lot of people who gave great performances in the movie, but for this review I think I’m just going to focus on the two leading actors. First of all you have Craig Stott who played John Caleo. As one half of this relationship, Stott really brought a lot of heart to his performance. There was a real sense of connection and love between the two characters that I found was masterfully acted. I will say that as a character John was kind of one-note, but when there were moments for him to shine you could count on Stott to really utilize them. As for Ryan Corr, who played Timothy Conigrave in the film, he really was the driving force behind the entire film. The character of Timothy is so complex, and Corr did an amazing job of portraying that. The raw emotion that was conveyed by Corr in the film was astounding, and he could switch gear almost as easily as one can flip a switch. One minute he’s angry, the next he’s intently caring about someone, the next he’s in tears; all of this really showed the complicated nature of Timothy and created a compelling character for us to watch.

Overall Holding the Man was a very touching, very personal story, but unfortunately it missed a few marks along the way. The performances were amazing, the ending of the movie is very powerful, but it also felt really slow during some parts which kind of took a toll on the overall impact of the film.

I give Holding the Man a B

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