I just started watching “It’s a Sin” on HBO Max. It follows a bunch of young gay people, and their friends, who share a flat in London in the eighties, and the transformation of their lives by the AIDS epidemic. It’s almost unbearably sad, but also very funny, and with some great music, especially when they’re on the dance floor at “Heaven” – oh the memories!
Neil Patrick Harris is truly stunning in episode one. And then there is the story of the Welsh boy Colin, played by astonishing newcomer Callum Scott Howells that will break your heart (there are a few spoilers, here). We forget how horrific it was back then and the movie does a great deal to remind us that “the past is a foreign country and they do things differently there”.
There is an amazing tracking shot, involving the central character Ritchie Tozer, played by a very boyish and charming Olly Alexander. Ritchie has just picked up a drink at the bar and, as he navigates his way through a crowded gay club with the choreographed grace of Gene Kelly in a Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen musical, we realize that he has slept with almost every patron in attendance, either as a twosome or a threesome. And as he kisses and hugs his former conquests, we get fast and superbly integrated flashbacks of their sex scenes which are hot, frank and funny.
The series was created by and written by Russell T. Davies whose “Queer as Folk” was so revolutionary in its time and all five episodes are beautifully and sensitively directed by Peter Hoar. Special mention must go to Keely Hawes who plays Valerie Tozer, Ritchie’s mom. At first glance a caring mother, we eventually realize why the words “mom I’m gay” could never be mentioned between them until it’s too late.
By contrast, Welsh actress Andria Doherty is equally effective as Colin’s mom who is a tower of support and strength from the moment that things start to go wrong. The amazing thing is that Doherty is actually a nurse and a midwife who just recently turned her attention to acting, specifically for this movie. Lucky us!
“It’s a Sin” is available for streaming on HBOMax.