Longtime Companion a 1989 film with Bruce Davison, Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, and Mary-Louise Parker celebrates its 25 year anniversary this week.
LC was first wide-release theatrical film to deal with the subject of AIDS. The film takes its title from the words The New York Times used to describe the surviving same-sex partner of someone who had died of AIDS during the 1980.’s
The movie chronicles the first years of the AIDS epidemic as seen through its impact on several gay men and the straight sister of one of them and is is split into several sections identified by dates from July 3, 1981 when the New York Times published its first article about the rise of a new “gay cancer.” to 1989.
“Bearing the burden of being the first film about AIDS, Longtime Companion (which premiered at Sundance Fest) it had the task of placing the crisis on the national agenda, which meant a gentler, kinder tone; even so, it’s a touching, sensitive film that helps us understand the bravery and gallantry of those who have been forced in the prime of life to confront death and grief.” –Emmaunnel Levy
Over a quarter century later, Longtime Companion remains both an essential film in the history of the epidemic and an enduring portrait of grief and loss. Yet in recent years, Longtime Companion has fallen into an undeserved obscurity: It’s currently not available on any streaming platforms (except the Youtube version below) and the DVD is out of print.
Though AIDS (then GRIDS) had begun as an obscure and seemingly isolated medical crisis — one that had been introduced to most of the country via a 1981 New York Times story featuring an ominous, and now infamous headline, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals” — it had exploded into a terrifying deadly epidemic with no end in sight.
I was there. NYC, The Village, The Anvil, The Mineshaft, Fire Island, the St. Marks Baths, and the porn theaters. I personally buried so many friends that many younger people today cannot imagine it let alone believe it. As wonderful as LC might be it will never even come close to portraying the road from happiness to the fear. The liberation of the late 70’s to the plague of the mid 80’s. And the burying of friends and loved ones week after week while wondering who was next and scared to death that it might be you. And no one in power gave a shit.
I lived through this and to this day I grieve for all the friends that I lost and often think to myself “Why me? Why did I survive while so many of my friends didn’t”” I was no better and in some cases so much worse. i ask this question to myself day after day and probably will until the day I die and I see them again.
It’s impossible for people who didn’t live through it to understand the depths of the pain, loss and anger AIDS brought to my generation. And what ramifications we live with today because of it.
Longtime Companion is an excellent movie. And along with The Normal Heart it might, just might actually help the younger members of the LGBT community understand the devastation that our community suffered. And why the survivors today are so angry and fight so hard for equality.
We fight now only for us. But also for those we lost.
If you have never seen Longtime Companion please watch the movie below.
**After 28 years Longtime Companion is still rated 100% FRESH at RottenTomatoes.com