Last night I saw Dallas Buyers Club at the Duke of York. I was looking for anything; a film that wasn’t a silly action thriller and this seems a good candidate. Grabbed a large glass of red and we took seats half way down.
Ron Woodroof is a gambling, drinking Texan who is told by a couple of doctors that he has HIV. His friends ostracise him and the only treatment the doctors can offer is to put him on an AZT double blind trial where he wont even know if he’s getting the drug or a placebo.
The film traces his attempts to obtain various medication which had not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. He teams up with a transgender woman (Rayon) and, to avoid prosecution for selling drugs, they set up a club to supply HIV sufferers with various pre-trial medication which will at least alleviate the symptoms of AIDS.
The one fault in the film is the way Woodruff suddenly morphs from alcoholic looser into an intelligent, organised and single minded powerhouse but this is easily overlooked and we gradually warm to this new character as his affection for Rayon grows through their shared struggle.
The major achievement of the Dallas Buyers Club is that we begin to understand how the United States medical establishment, though built to help patients was, in fact, an obstacle to alleviating their pain. The film brilliantly shows how the gay community came together to help themselves and how, eventually the establishment realised that its lengthy drug trial processes are a luxury that had to be streamlines for the emergency.
This is an intelligent film which avoids black and white characterisation of good guys and bad guys. As much as we cheer for Ron we also sympathise with the doctor as he rages that allowing patients to treat themselves makes it almost impossible for him to carry out legitimate (and it must be remembered, vital) drug trials.
Spilling out into the street we headed straight for the pub opposite, Circus Circus, which was quiet and where I learned that my friend had worked for an AIDS charity in the 80s. After a number of Kronies I found a £20 note in the Gents. A successful night I’d say.