AWAY IN the DISTANCE

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This blog is about something that literally died out in the early 90’s. It was a dreadful disease that killed many from all walks of life, but now it no longer exists in the western world. This disease only occurs in countries with poor education, amenities and very little in the way of contraception. This could be the opinion of many of us, but it’s not true as aids is still here and still causes deaths although medical developments help those suffering a great deal. The first case of aids was in 1981 and since then 25 million people have died from the disease. There are currently 33.4 million people living with HIV/aids, 97% of which come from less economically developed countries. In 2008 2 million died and 2.7 million were infected. To get this into perspective the number of people living with the disease is equal to Half the population of England and those that died and we’re infected in 2008 is equal to the population of a country like Finland. Most with the disease do not have access to prevention, care and treatment and this is a disease where no cure has been found. There is good news however as those living in poor countries and being diagnosed with HIV/aids are more likely to receive treatment as treatments have increased 10 fold since 2002, now reaching an estimated 4million by 2008.
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The virus doesn’t just infect those in the third world because even countries like the USA still have people dying and being infected by aids. 1.1 million people in America are infected by aids and 1 in 6 are completely unaware that they have the virus. This is staggering when you think that this is one of the most powerful countries in the world. Living in England, I very rarely here about aids and its almost like it doesn’t exist. I think the only mention of it is when comic relief is on and money is being raised for third world countries. In the UK there are nearly 100,000 people with aids 21,000 of which are undiagnosed. This means that those suffering from aids is equal to the number of people living in a town the size of Hastings and sadly nearly half of those diagnosed are diagnosed late when treatment should already have started. 1 in 4 of those that have aids are in the 50+ age range which suggests that people with the virus are now living longer.

Why am I talking about aids on a film blog? Well today I saw Dallas Buyers Club, which follows the life of a Texan male diagnosed with the virus in the 80’s when this was a new virus and extremely scary. The story tackles a lot of misconceptions about the virus on how it is caught and who tends to catch it. Aids stood for Away In the Distance back then as people were scared to be touched by anyone with the virus and kept themselves as far away as possible. The saying “ignorance is bliss” could not be more wrong in this instance because ignorance meant fear when aids was even mentioned. Most believed it was a virus that only gay people caught at a time when there was still a great deal of homophobia.
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The film depicts a guy who doesn’t quite fit the picture of the stereotypical aids sufferer. He was an electrician in a very masculine industry, who rode bulls, slept with lots of women, drank beer and was brought up despising gay people. The diagnosis left him in disbelief as he linked aids with gay men as did many of his friends and co workers, leaving them to completely ostracise him from their group. Doctors gave him 30 days to live, which was something that he couldn’t accept. New drugs were being developed all the time to help treat the virus and this guy was determined to get hold of them even if it meant smuggling them in from other countries.

This was when he took up the chance to make a profit and sell the drugs to those that needed it. As the film goes on you see new friendships develop, ones which due to his ignorance and prejudices would have been impossible before. A close bond develops between him and his doctor as she begins to realise how important these drugs are and how effective they are in treating the virus. It is not clear whether this develops into love, but they at least have a close friendship. As the film develops it becomes clear that this man is changing and has become a far better person as a result of the virus. He becomes a clean living guy, no longer doing recreational drugs, sleeping around or drinking heavily. What starts off as strictly business turns into a campaign to help those suffering by giving them access to the drugs they need. This guy slowly begins to realise that gay people deserve respect and are nothing to be afraid of. It is a dreadful virus, but made this Texan a far better man who broke down a lot of barriers and misconceptions that he himself once had.

Mathew McConaughey gave the performance of his life and truly deserved the Oscar. To be able to portray such a guy and to portray the emotion that went with a person suffering with aids was remarkable. The feelings of anger, the tears of sadness, the sense of desperation and the determination to live were all performed so well by an actor that has never really shown this capability before. To watch as this person changed physically, emotionally and to see their prejudices slowly disappear was amazing. The commitment to the role was clearly shown by the physical change from being a muscular guy to becoming scrawny and almost skeleton like.

A lot was made of the physical change made by Matthew, but Jared Leto looked horrifying as his bones protruded through his skin. He too picked up an Oscar and rightly so, playing the transsexual who has an adoration for Mark Bolan and a love for make up and wigs. The emotion that came across as Jareds character became fearful of death was truly powerful. The short scene with his father as he revealed that he had aids was particularly moving. A father that could not accept his son as he was, but of course fought back tears at the realisation that his son could die.
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This is a remarkable film about remarkable people who fought to stay alive when aids was a death sentence. The performances by all were of the highest standard and fully deserving of every accolade they received. This is a film about breaking down barriers, about prejudice and how with knowledge the prejudices can be removed, it is about the determination to live and how money should never decide whether someone lives or dies. I left the cinema wanting to see this film again and with so many thoughts and feelings going on in mind.
9/10

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