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120 BPM
(120 battements par minute)

Robin Campillo

Robin Campillo’s heartfelt portrait of the ACT UP community in Paris in the 1990s is a thoughtful and moving reminder of the courage and tragedy which the AIDS crisis inflicted on a generation. This is a personal project for Campillo and it shows: there’s a brutal authenticity and tenderness in 120 BPM which comes from his own experiences as part of the movement.

"A testimony to the power of activism to awaken an indifferent world."

The film opens in the middle of a political meeting as the Paris branch of ACT UP are planning their next action, to fight the indifference of the Mitterand government and a pharmaceutical industry dragging its feet over releasing HIV drug treatments. Over the next two hours we get to know the individuals behind the struggle – impassioned activist Sophie (Adele Haenel), haemophiliac Marco (Theophile Ray) and his mother Helene (Catherine Vinatier), the conciliatory leader Thibault (Antoine Reinartz) and the impatient Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart). It is Sean who falls in love with gravely handsome newcomer Nathan (Arnaud Valois), one of the few members of the group with an HIV negative status. Their love deepens as Sean’s health fails. His passion for life and commitment to direct action are all the more poignant as he copes with endless medical procedures and the sense that he will soon die.

Biscayart and Valois are both understated in their performances, lending absolute conviction to the characters and their tragedy. 120 BPM is a moving, lump-in-the-throat love story that also resonates on a political level – a testimony to the power of activism to awaken an indifferent world.