Based on some of director Robin Campillo's and co-screenwriter Philippe Mangeot's experiences, BPM follows the Paris charter of ACT NOW, an AIDS advocacy group in the 1990s. The film begins in a harshly lit classroom, with the rules of the group being explained to the newcomers. In stark detail, we are told that if we want to be a part of ACT NOW, we need to be willing to appear HIV-positive - regardless of our diagnosis, no applause is allowed during the meetings - just finger clicks to allow for uninterrupted debate, and silence kills.
It's the midst of the AIDS epidemic and ACT NOW are at war with a pharmaceutical company, fighting to get results of drug trials, fighting to be medicated, fighting to be heard. The film begins in documentary-style, following the activists between their weekly meetings and their public protests, but it slowly transforms and moves to follow the developing relationship between Nathan (Arnaud Valois), HIV-negative, and Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), HIV-positive. In the way love stories of this era go, it's heartbreaking.
The film beautifully juxtaposes the fierce weekly meetings and fake blood splattered protests with montages of the ACT NOW gang dancing in a disco, the strobe lights on their faces and dust in the air, and tender love scenes between Nathan and Sean. The transition between documentary and intimate personal stories is flawless, but it's these intimate stories that are most touching.
Campillo has created a masterpiece that encapsulates the experiences of the AIDS epidemic. BPM is long, intense, and passionate. It draws you into this community of young men and women and it breaks your heart.
4 out of 5 stars