Movies about the AIDS pandemic are always a tough call as fifty-something-year-old Sam (Alan Cumming) a NY artist who is working on a documentary about his friend William (David Drake) who died at the peak of the crisis finds out. Unable to move on with his own life since then he has become somewhat obsessed with this project that no-one else is interested in at all. His Gallerist (Vivian Justin Bond) dismisses it quite brusquely, and all his friends are in despair that it has become his only topic of conversation.
Drowning his sorrows in a bar one day he gets picked up by much younger Braedon (Zachary Booth) and assuming that he is a rent boy, next day he pays him for the night. Braedon, currently in between jobs, actually has a live-in boyfriend Lukas (Anthony Johnston) and although they have an open relationship, Lukas is really upset that Braedon is actually being paid to have sex.
When Sam and Braedon hook up again and actually start to talk as well as have sex, Sam gets on his high horse and shares his anger that the younger generation neither take the AIDS crisis seriously, or even appreciates the whole battle for gay rights that the older generation fought for, and which they now benefit from. His own fixation with the topic has actually blinkered him to the reality that this is really not the case, and that AIDS/HIV never went away but younger gay people have a totally different relationship with it as born out in Braedon and Lukas own case.
However Sam’s all-consuming anger is not just directed at the generations that follow him, but also people of his own age who he believes have betrayed ‘the struggle’ by accepting more heteronormative practices such as same-sex marriage. When he is surprised by the news that Jeffrey (Patrick Breen) one of his oldest friends has married Mateo (Wilson Cruz) his younger boyfriend he positively goes ballistic and ruins their celebration.
Despite the story line After Louie, with a script by Anthony Johnston and director Vincent Gagliostro, carefully avoids the trap of becoming too preachy, but it does neatly capture the real essence of people of Sam’s generation who are still having trouble coming to terms with the fact that almost their entire address book was once wiped out. At the other end of the scale are those survivors who do not want to confront a single reminder of the plaque that they lived through. Then there are Sam’s friends who neatly fit right in the middle of these two opposing standpoints.
Cumming gives the whole piece some gravitas with his wonderfully nuanced performance as Sam, as does David Drake playing the part of the deceased William. Booth is very convincing as the free-spirited big hearted Braedon and it is easy to see why anyone would want to fall for him. Gagliostro in this his debut directing a feature, also peppered the film with a very distinguished supporting cast, some of whom had the briefest of cameos such as the wonderful Joey Arias. Two standout performances though were from veteran out-gay actor Everett Quinton as Julien, Sam’s old art-teacher and Sarita Choudhury as Maggie as his best friend.
After Louie is a well-considered and thoughtful take on what really could be called an After AIDS story too. It is also very entertaining too and deserves to be seen, especially by people who may be too quick to dismiss it because of its subject matter, which would be a great shame and their loss too.