MANY stories of being gay usually deal with one facet of what it is like to be gay. However, Timothy Conigrave’s book Holding The Man encompasses so many different aspects.

From first love, religious prejudice and coming out to the fear of HIV and AIDS. And what makes it exceptional is that the story is based on a true one. It’s all real.

[showads ad=MREC]The gist of the Conigrave’s book, now regarded as a modern Australian classic, is this: At an all-boys high school in 1976, Timothy Conigrave falls in love with the school’s Aussie Rules football team captain John Caleo. Over the next 15 years we see their love grow and develop as each of them must endure prejudice not only from society but their family as well. Despite all that life throws at them their love for each other never diminishes.

Director Neil Armfield, together with screenwriter Tommy Murphy, have lovingly bought Conigrave’s story to life. And much like the story itself, Armfield and Murphy’s film adaptation also takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

Being set in the 1970s and 1980s, one of the aspects I loved was the old-fashioned way that Timothy and John had to communicate. With no mobile phones or internet they had to call each other at home on a landline or write letters. This provided some tension because these forms of communication could be easily discovered by their parents.

As someone who went to an all-boys school, I have some experience of keeping personal feelings a secret despite all the homoerotic things going on around me, which is another aspect I thought the film handled well. It is also punctuated with some great songs from the 1970s. However, the only disappointing thing I found was that their choice of song was on the nose a couple of times.

As Timothy Conigrave, Ryan Corr gives a stunningly beautiful performance. It is so heart-felt and moving that you forget you are watching an actor and just see the real Timothy on screen. Equally as good is Craig Stott as John Caleo. The on-screen chemistry between Corr and Stott is amazing and you can feel the love they are portraying just radiate off the screen. You can’t help but fall in love with them both.

Corr and Stott are surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast who bring a great deal of depth to the story. My favourite was Anthony LaPaglia as John’s father, Bob. He could have played the role as a stereotypical homophobic father, but LaPaglia shows him to be more than that. You can really see the struggle Bob is going through as he must grapple with the love he has for his son and his own deep-seeded prejudice.

With Holding The Man, as well as the documentary Gayby Baby, Australian film makers are showing us how same-sex relationships are a part of society that deserves to be equal.

Holding The Man will be screened in cinemas around Australia from Thursday, August 27.


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