This heart-breaking drama, set in NYC from 1980-84, deals with the East Village free-spirited set, whose disconnected lives intersect in important ways with the downtown arts district. We are instantly introduced to song-writer/poet Kate Jones (Sam Quartin), graffiti artist Keith Wright (Davy J. Marr), and photographer Anton Simon (Chris Schellenger), who live together in an enviable ménage-a-tois.
Handsome Anton very much reminds us of the late photographer-extraordinaire Robert Mapplethorpe and Kate is a soulful songstress of minimalism. Writer/director Cyrus Morin certainly knows this period, and the end result of drugs, booze, cigarettes and unprotected sex leading to the horrors of the AIDS crisis.
Morin has written substantial characters: Our leads, and the friends who party with them (Ray Field as Harold, the rich art dealer who makes Anton famous, is deserving of praise for his stand-out performance), along with the un-accepting family members of the trio who cannot support their loved ones, although Morin never demonizes them.
His camera (cinematography by Romain Wilhelm) is seldom still, even in his much-used close-ups. Obviously, the film editing of Stéphanie Pedelacq enhances his mood-builds, and his direction of the cast reminds those of us old enough to have been in NYC or LA for the crisis to be moved to tears by the sensitivity of the acting.
Oddly enough, for a film that details the sexual, emotional, and artistic freedoms of the era, there's very little sex or even nudity (an aesthetic choice? Pandering to the talent? Or sparing today's audience? Who the hell knows?!). But there is love between the trio, most especially between Kate and Anton, and as grim reality intrudes on their lives, the emotional bonds are kept clear and present.
Morin has definitely captured an era now gone, when hedonism unchecked turned deadly, so his film is a time capsule of sorts. He also uses subway tunnels and long hallways to illustrate the narrowness of the way his characters' lives unspool. And the loving glances of NYC during that period, with stock footage of the World Trade Center twin buildings, the statue of the angel Bethesda in Central Park, the graffiti on the sides of buildings in addition to the desecration of the subway cars, all intensely recall the time period.
A minor masterpiece, this film will have a life of its own from now on.