Every group or community within human population goes through periods of ups and downs. Periods of strife, fight and battle. The gay community is a perfect example of this. They have fought the good fight for years and years. Hundreds of them. None more poignant or costly than that waged during the peak of the AIDS disease. Thousands and thousands of gays (especially males) fell during that battle while others lived on. Lived on with the guilt they carry with them up until today that they survived while many of their best friends and lovers died. Equality for gays has not been reached. Nor has AIDS been cured and yet most have moved on. To what is the question that this film explores.
Sam (Alan Cumming – from television’s The Good Wife) is a middle aged artist. He lived through the darkest of days of AIDS in North America and lost many a friend. Now in 2017 he is still struggling. Struggling with the past and how to deal with it. Despite being a successful painter he has turned away from his medium and for roughly 15 years has been working on an AIDS film. An AIDS film about his friend William (David Drake – Philadelphia, It’s Pat: The Movie), who succumbed to the disease. It seems like Sam has not been able to move on and his circle of close friends, Maggie (Sarita Choudhury – A Perfect Murder, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1), Jeffrey (Patrick Breen – Men in Black, A Most Violent Year) and Mateo (Wilson Cruz – from television’s Star Trek: Discovery), are either worried or fatigued with his dogged pursuit of the past.
This floating along in life for Sam comes to a bump in the road when one night in a half deserted bar he is approached by a younger man. Sam takes Braeden (Zachary Booth – Taking Woodstock, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) home and when he leaves money in Braeden’s shoe the next morning it is the beginning of an interesting relationship. The two men challenge each other about how they view being gay in 2017. It also causes Sam to reevaluate how he views the past. How that trauma has marked him and not allowed him to move on with his life.
Alan Cumming is a great actor. In this film he proves it. After Louie, directed and co-written by Vincent Gagliostro (first film), is a rather average story. What elevates it to something that you should spend time watching is the acting of Cumming. He tones down his typical bitchy queen character and brings to life an intelligent, damaged and stuck in a rut man. Sam is a privileged white male who spends most of his time whining. A man who is not always likeable, but someone you really end up liking. A man who is stuck in the past and cannot seem to move on. Watching him does take patience, but it pays off in the end.
Not everyone’s cup of tea as it is a rather talky film. Some might see it as too much so. I like dialogue, so really gravitated to After Louie. Plus the dialogue is realistic. Not excessive. What might have helped the film a little was if the first time director would have trimmed some of the fat off. Some scenes seemed to slow things down and were excessive. They did not really serve too much of a purpose.
The film has a rather personal feel about it while still managing to be largely universal. Personal in that it is obviously a subject that the director feels strongly about. About the lack of respect by younger gays towards the older generation and the battles they fought. There is a generational divide and that is obvious to anyone who cares to scratch a little beneath the surface. Admirably it tries to delve into what the gay community is actually about today.
Rather universal in tone in that many middle agers, no matter which community they identify with, feel a little left behind by the passing of time. The world we grew up in has radically changed and if you don’t keep up with the technological advances and everything else you will feel left behind and bitter. What was important to the gay community in those days, things like fighting for the same legal recognition as heterosexuals, the right to marry and money being put into the fight to find the cure for AIDS, are no longer so. The fight for full equality and freedom from prejudice still goes on, sadly, in other ways. Though the film shows that what is being fought for by the gay community has changed that the fight goes on.