January 28, 2019  (Web Review)

Buddies

Vinegar Syndrome, 79 min., not rated, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $32.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

A year before actor Steve Buscemi became a breakout star playing a man living with AIDS in the 1986 feature Parting Glances, filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan Jr. released the emotionally raw Buddies, which centers on the friendship between a man dying from AIDS complications and the volunteer who helps him in his final weeks. Geoff Edholm is outstanding as gay activist Robert Willow, who reveals—with fear and mournfulness—his awareness that he will not be leaving his hospital bed before death. Miserable from the toll of advanced AIDS, Willow is isolated and abandoned by family, friends, and lovers who are afraid of the disease. Enter David (David Schachter), a volunteer from a gay support organization. David is young, gay, in a committed relationship, and is a professional typesetter. David is prepared to chit-chat with Robert and carry out some small tasks for him, but he isn’t ready to be a steady rock for a sometimes-desperate stranger in the latter’s last act. As time goes on, however, David develops warmth and wisdom, aware of his growing love for Robert, which is demonstrated in remarkably compassionate ways. David and Robert are on their own journey within a sea of political, medical, and moral grappling with AIDS in the mid-‘80s. Bressan, who died of AIDS two years after the release of Buddies, was able to turn budget limitations into creative assets, here literally keeping his camera trained on his two leads, with other characters existing as offscreen voiceovers. Yet even in its unadorned approach, Buddies packs a heartbreaking punch. Extras include an interviews with Schachter and film historian Thomas Waugh, and an archival stills and article gallery. Recommended. (T. Keogh)