Postcards From America Review

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The story of boy to teen to man with HIV and his journey to finding love and affection.


Based on the autobiographical scribblings of the late American artist David Wojnarowicz, this debut feature from pop promo merchant Steve McLean deliberately ditches the straight style of mainstream AIDS movies such as Philadelphia or And The Band Played On. Instead, it goes for arthouse all the way, with nifty lenswork, profound sounding narration and a strong theme.

The theme being that while families mess up your life, the neighbours carry on regardless, and then, just to prove you deserved it all along, here comes some awful virus to strike you down. Focusing on Wojnarowicz's state of mind rather than his libido, the film cuts between three phases in his life.

As a chubby faced kid (Olmo Tighe) in the early 60s, he yearns for affection but just gets knocked around by his no-good drunk of a dad. As a flared-of-trouser teenager (Michael Tighe), he hangs out with drag queens, cruising New York with a fellow hustler and failed mugger. Then, finally, as an even more disillusioned, HIV-positive grown-up (Lyons in outsized work boots), he retreats to a fiery-orange desertscape to kick sand and pick up passing drivers for anonymous sex.

Although McLean is so keen to impress with his technical expertise that he doesn't think to vary it at all, it is hard to deny his accomplishment. Through a set of unsentimental performances from the cast of unknowns, the sheer visual skill and a smattering of period cartoon snippets to pep it up, this weird alchemy of road movie and languorous biopic manages to clobber staid American normality with intelligence and defiant restraint.

Intelligent take on the struggle for identity and acceptance wrapped up in a languorous road movie.