Interview: The Wet One
Bad Boss: Like A Bastard
Unions: Demolition Derby
Corporate: The Bush Doctrine
Politics: American Jihad
Health: Secret Country
Review: Walking On Water
Poetry: The UQ Stonewall
Month In Review
The Locker Room
The Legacy of 11/9
The CFMEU Race Debate #2
Keeping it Clean
Sue the Leaders?
Wrong Way, Go Back
Shame on Murray
Use or Abuse of Long Term Casuals
Speaking in Tongues
Walking On Water
Tony Ayres' Walking On Water opens to the refrains of a young man gasping his last breaths after losing his battle with AIDS.
Just his closest friends and family surround him as a doctor administers a final lethal injection, enabling him to die at home with some modicum of dignity. At least this is the way young Gavin has planned it. Gavin has planned everything right down to the flower arrangement that will flank his coffin on the day of his funeral. But there are no guarantees even for the best laid plans, as this movie proves.
Walking On Water follows the plight of Gavin's friends and family as they grapple with his untimely departure, their collective grief and the hole his absence leaves in their own lives.
His two closest friends and housemates, Anna (Maria Theodorakis) and Charlie (Vince Colosimo), have cared for Gavin throughout his illness. A time in stark contrast to their hardcore partying days that may even have contributed to Gavin's sudden demise.
Gal pal Anna 'deals' with her loss through blatant denial. Following his parting instructions to the letter, there will be no room for error while she is on the case and no time for tears for her. Everything has to be perfect as Anna seeks to take control of everything and everyone, including Gavin's mother.
But her work is continually frustrated by Charlie, who on top of dealing with unresolved issues surrounding Gavin's death is losing the love of his boyfriend and his own grip on reality.
In the week marking the 20th anniversary since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed, the appearance on a movie like Tony Ayres' Walking on Water appears to offer a welcome snapshot of what it means to suffer from the disease today.
At least that is the expectation established from the start. In the opening moments of the film it touches on euthanasia, unsafe sex, living with AIDS and nightclub culture.
Yet no sooner does the audience bond with the idea of taking a closer look at these issues than the film detours to place nearly all its emphasis on the grieving people left behind.
The sadness, compassion and confusion of these people is portrayed expertly. Each actor has an impressive ability to say their lines without opening their mouths, leaving the audience to name their various emotional afflictions instead.
But it still feels like a bit of a waste for a movie raising such timely issues to skirt around what it was like for Gavin as he was living with HIV/AIDS.
In Australia deaths from AIDS have fallen from 753 in 1994 to 136 in 2001 and continues to decline. Meanwhile the number of people living with HIV is steadily accumulating. Some 12,440 people were known to be living with HIV positive in 2000, increasing to 12,730 in 2001.
It cannot be known what percentage of these people will eventually suffer from full-blown AIDS, but it is known that HIV is no longer always death sentence. Thanks to advances in treatment, some HIV patients can continue to lead long and healthy lives for many years - with their disease never advancing to the next deadly phase.
Walking On Water portrays Gavin as a hard-living man but never draws the link between this and his sudden demise from AIDS. Maybe there was none. Yet this would have been a good opportunity to highlight the risks for the sake of the many thousands of Australians who are living with the illness, relying on medical treatment and their own efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, in order to keep their immune systems strong.
There are also a few sex scenes in the movie, but at no time is the question of condoms ever raised. Forming the backdrop to an AIDS-related death, it is surprising that the issue of safe sex is virtually ignored.
While the grieving processes of Gavin's friends make solid movie viewing, there is still a feeling that Walking On Water could have been made far more practical without being preachy. A greater focus on Gavin's life while dealing with his illness would have created a far better balance and avoided the complacency with which the movie in its current form appears to deal with HIV/AIDS.
This movie raises more issues than it endeavours to deal with in any detail, and many deserve to be given greater attention than afforded here.
Rating 3 out of 5 (getting there)
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