A recent conversation with GayPatriotWest got me thinking about the movie Longtime Companion, which I hadn't watched since I saw it in the moviehouse in 1990. I remember it was the summer I first really started dating men, and it was my first gay movie. First time seeing our real stories on the big screen, first time any of us saw two men really kiss in a movie, and the first time I'd seen gay committed loving relationships, of the kind I had hoped were possible, held up on screen for all to see. It was a powerful experience, and needless to say it was one of those movies that occupy a certain space in one's memory, as much for the time and place they were encountered as for the movie itself.
I found the old tape in the back of our VHS drawer, and cued it up, wondering how the movie had held up having aged 15 years. I'd say it's held up well. It really does a great job of capturing the experience and the zeitgeist of the 80's (at least for someone who lived through it -- I wonder what it would be like for someone younger who wouldn't have the same nostalgia). The film spans a decade, from the first rumors of an unidentified "gay cancer" to the retrenching of the gay community to seriously respond to the epidemic. It follows it through the lives (and deaths) of a group of friends whose very human and real responses comprise anxiety, sadness, anger, courage, and commitment. The way these characters support one another through the experience of that decade is both moving and admirable. The vow of lifelong love "in sickness and in health" was tested and met (by men who had no formal expression nor social recognition of that vow).
The film ends on a defiantly hopeful note, at the same time acknowledging that in 1990 we were marching forward on sheer determination that there would someday be light at the end of the tunnel. No light was visible then. Now 15 years later, we still haven't emerged from that tunnel, and it's hard to gauge the distance remaining, but there is a glimmer of light in that distance.