An Early Frost Reviews
This was a groundbreaking film discussing AIDS at a time when ignorance and prejudice were commonplace.
It deals with the subject in an intelligent, non patronising and sensitive manner. Informative and soul destroyingly touching.
The first time I saw this film I cried like a baby and was relieved the story ended before the inevitable death.
Even now with most attitudes having undergone a shift the film still stands up as excellent piece of storytelling.
As the first tele-film to deal with AIDS, An Early Frost explores the epidemic on a small scale, following Michael Pierson, a young Chicago lawyer (played by Aidan Quinn, in a beautifully honest, Emmy-nominated performance) as he learns he has the disease. Forced to reveal the one-two punch to his family that he is gay and has also come down with "the gay plague", Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and Sylvia Sidney all must come to grips with his disease as well as the possibility of losing their son and grandson. The intense emotions that are brought to the surface by Michael's revelation to his family lead to some of the most poignant and beautiful scenes.
This is an incredibly powerful and well-made film that unapologetically confronts AIDS in a frank and realistic manner at a time when misinformation and paranoia ran rampant in the United States. The mood of the 1985 time period (which is, of course, the present day of the film as well) is exposed and dealt with effectively through characterization and a well-rounded conveyance of facts mixed with misinformation (Michael's pregnant sister is afraid to be near him, several gay friends withdraw from his life, etc). The writers also demonstrated a lot of foresight in their portrayal of the disease, even though there are obvious instances where the information is now dated.
Sylvia Sidney's performance as Michael's devoted grandmother is certainly a stand-out and was deservedly recognized with a Golden Globe. But also not to be missed is Gena Rowlands' affect-less and sensitive portrayal of a mother trying to process what is happening to the son she adores (she leaves behind much of her usual bag of tricks for this performance), John Glover as a flamboyant and witty AIDS patient in the same hospital as Michael and D.W. Moffet, who plays his caring boyfriend who may or may not have infected him.
Remarkable for exploring the disease and its effects on those surrounding the afflicted only four years into the AIDS crisis, this is a film as powerful today as I imagine it was when it first came out.
Worth noting: D.W. Moffett also co-starred in the original production of "The Normal Heart" which came out the same year as this film, playing Ned Weeks' lover Felix Turner who learns he has AIDS halfway through the play. When I performed in that play in college in the role of Tommy Boatwright, a hospital administrator who joins the Gay Men's Health Crisis, one of my lines of dialogue always stuck out to me, "There are gonna be a lot of mommas wondering why their sons have suddenly up and died of pneumonia." This film explores the repercussions of having to come out twice: as a gay man and as a person with AIDS.
"Living with AIDS", a short documentary directed, produced and edited by Tina DiFeliciantonio, and chronicling one young man's struggle with the disease, accompanies the film as a DVD bonus feature. Todd Coleman, a 22-year-old gay man living in San Francisco and the subject of the short, died before the film was bravely shown on broadcast television.