Holding the Man

Out Now On-Demand

A love story for everyone.

Australian romantic drama following John, the football jock, and Tim, the actor with aspirations. Their high-school romance carries across 15 years – through discrimination, temptation and jealousy. Co-stars Guy Pearce, Anthony LaPaglia (Balibo) and Sarah Snook (Predestination).

"Published in 1995, Holding the Man - winner of the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction - is one of Australia's favourite books. A tender, celebratory and refreshingly honest memoir about the author's long-term love for John Caleo, his Melbourne high school's football captain...  Directed by Neil Armfield (Candy)... Adapted for the screen by Tommy Murphy, whose stage version wowed audiences from Sydney to London, it is every bit as moving, witty and inspirational as its source material." (Melbourne International Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Drama, Romance, Festival & Independent

128mins

Rating: MA15+ Strong sex scenes and nudity

Australia

Official Site

Holding The Man could have been a mess. The source material is a memoir cherished by the gay community, riddled with complex emotional subjectivity and fantasy, that became an acclaimed stage play.

Without the deftest, most skilled individuals in key roles, this might have been a meandering and worthy emotional rollercoaster, or a methodical and lacklustre rendition of a live performance, or, worst of all, a soapbox drowning its own story in anger over a series of important issues.

Instead, Holding The Man is a gorgeous, tragic, love story, beautifully realised for the screen and by degrees both incredibly moving and wonderfully entertaining – though be warned, this is a full hanky affair as the ugly crying sets in towards the end.

It is the true story of two men, Tim and John, boys when they met at an exclusive Melbourne private school, who fell in love and embarked on a life together despite the overwhelming pressures that mounted against them. Ryan Corr and Craig Stott are extraordinary as the pair, never failing to shine in a tale spanning more than a decade, with family backlash and the horrific impact of AIDS among the sea of troubles the two are forced to navigate.

This is Neil Armfield’s first return to screen direction since Candy. While that film was critically acclaimed it became the flagship for the “bleak” cinema movement that crippled Australian cinema audiences in the last decade. Holding The Man could so easily have gone the same way as it is loaded with dark themes including AIDS, societal repression, homophobia, infidelity and death.

Instead, it is the simple tale of two lovers that remains front and centre, with a visual style that revels in its ‘80s period setting without ever overwhelming the story. It is beautiful. It is tragic. And it is an absolute must-see.

Hollywood Reporter

press

A spry, delicately handled tearjerker.

Guardian (UK)

press

Memorable performances but a little wobbly.

Sydney Morning Herald

press

Matches humour with devastation.

Screen Daily (USA)

press

Owes much to the stage rather than the page, as the majority of its interactions and exchanges make clear.

Urban Cinefile (Australia)

press

The two central performances are superb, Corr and Stott encapsulating the emotional journey to perfection.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

press

Feels like a cross between French Canadian family drama C.R.A.Z.Y. and Philadelphia, but with its own distinctive Aussie flavour.

Based on the 1995 memoir by revered gay rights activist Timothy Conigrave, the film version struggles to avoid soapy melodrama and corny humour.

It is ten years since the release of Brokeback Mountain (2005), now widely acknowledged as a landmark film for the LGBT movement’s long struggle to be represented on the big screen. It was one of many cinematic high-points on the wave of such films that started twenty years earlier. The film industry has changed since then; the genre of ‘queer cinema’ is now almost mainstreamed because the days of depicting all human relationships as heterosexual are gone. There are many more battles to be won, but the film pioneers have done the hard yards. This history is important because any current film that goes over old ground without offering something new risks being outdated upon release.

Respect for queer cinema does not necessarily lead to respect for all films produced under its rubric. Despite direction by the acclaimed Neil Armfield, Holding the Man (2015) is a disappointing film. Based on the 1995 memoir by revered gay rights activist Timothy Conigrave, the film version struggles to avoid soapy melodrama and corny humour. It’s a low budget production about the illicit love that started between two schoolboys in the 1970s and continued for 15 years until the AIDS epidemic took its toll. Ryan Corr plays Tim and Craig Stott plays John, actors who in real life are around 30 years of age. Despite their talent, they are glaringly unconvincing as teenagers. The inevitable lack of acting authenticity through poor casting is insurmountable and it undermines the film. While sex scenes play an important expressive role in the portrayal of all relationships regardless of sexuality, beyond a certain point they become gratuitously exhibitionist.

The few genuinely sensitive moments in this film cannot overcome a disjointed narrative arc, unconvincing acting, repetitive sex scenes and an awkward mix of humour and pathos. The desire to pay homage to Conigrave’s book may have constrained the film, but good adaptations are not straitjacketed by the source text. They go beyond it to show visually what was imagined by the author, contemporising it for today’s far more open-minded audiences. I really wanted this film to work, but for me it just didn’t.