There was a lot of consternation when 120 BPM was not nominated for best foreign language film at the last Oscars and finally we have a chance to see for ourselves whether it was deserving of a pick. It follows the actions of a LGBT group called ACT UP in Paris in the early 1990s. With the AIDS epidemic at its height, the group try to raise awareness whilst also pressurising the government and pharmaceutical companies to increase their efforts to make drugs to ease the condition more available.
The film is at its best when showing the group in action. That is in their marches, demonstrations and stunts, and most especially in the fierce debates at their meetings. It is amazing how a group of people arguing in a room can be so cinematic, if the performances are committed enough, and in this film they certainly are. Particularly good are Antoine Reinartz as the spokesman of ACT UP and Aloïse Sauvage as one of the other leading figures. Director Robin Campillo’s use of nightclub scenes to punctuate the story work really well and the film has a real sense of urgency at times that is fitting bearing in mind how most of the characters portrayed have so little time left to live.
The central romance between Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and Nathan (Arnaud Valois) was less successful. It was a little too predictable – though both actors are good in their roles – and I found myself wanting to find out more about other members of the group instead of following their story so closely.
Passionate stuff that probably deserved more awards consideration, 120 BPM is available in art house cinemas and to rent from streaming services.
Rating: 8 out of 10