Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Queerguru reviews ‘HOW TO TELL A SECRET’ how millennials deal with HIV in a contemporary Ireland


Over the past few years, QUEERGURU has sat through and reviewed 40 feature films that touch on HIV and/or AIDS.  The pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s totally devastated the LGBTQ+ community and became the single largest factor in reshaping our future.  As a queer media that prides itself in its mission to ensure that our history is shared as widely as possible, especially with queer youth, we devote coverage to these movies no matter how upsetting or disturbing they are …. although we will not include any that are exploitative and barely cover their disdain for our community.

Once in a blue moon, a feature film comes along that looks at the whole HIV phenomenon in a different context and is both inspiring and totally uplifting.  How To Tell A Secret is one such film.  It’s a compelling hybrid documentary that for once does not deal with the 80s and 90s but focuses on how millennials are dealing with their HIV diagnoses in contemporary Ireland. 

It opens with a reenactment of 21-year-old Shaun Dunne waiting for the arrival of his ex-boyfriend Robbie Lawlor who is about to tell him that he has been diagnosed with HIV.  Its some years since 1996 when the arrival of protease inhibitors so it meant that this was no longer a death sentence, but even so these young men suffered from the sheer ignorance that Irish society had maintained

There was no education on the subject anywhere and there was an unspoken taboo that it wasn’t ever discussed anytime/anywhere.  21-year-old Robbie had never met anyone else with the diagnosis and was advised ‘be careful who you tell, because once it was out there you cannot take it back’   Veda a very confident local drag queen kept her diagnosis a secret for 10 years.

HIV in Ireland was also an epidemic of silence it meant that gay men and women who had already come out of the closet, were forced back into another closet once they were diagnosed with HIV.   

However, despite all this secrecy, these young men found their voices.   Robbie would go on national TV and be the youngest person ever to talk about his HIV  Shaun would go on to write a play not just about his experiences with Rob but of several others of their age dealing with HIV diagnoses.  It became so successful that the Irish Film Board offered them funding to adapt it into this film.

Kudos to directors Anna Rodgers and Shaun Dunne who blurred some genre-blurring storytelling techniques by recreating parts of the some of stories using stand-ins. And for including others such as immigrants who couldn’t show their faces but wanted their stories told.  It was a refreshing way to not just show what it is like to live with HIV in Ireland but also the sheer energy and positivity  that all these people  imbued  

Rob, a star in the making, has an infectious charisma, that is impossible not to be swept away in.  He puts it all to good use as he co-founded  Access to Medicines Ireland because he believes it is unfair that whilst he can get all the HUV medication he needs there are hundreds and thousands of others around the world who can’t and are still dying. unnecessarily.

The film is having a theatrical release in Ireland on  World AIDS Day (December 1st)  and should be compulsory viewing for millennials and Gen X everywhere.  Also for us ‘older’ members of the LGBTQ+ community who lived through the 80s pandemic suffering great losses, it is so uplifting to see that with the Robbies and the Shauns of the world the future is now full of so much hope.

P.S. The movie is being released in Ireland on World AIDS Day for future screenings https://www.facebook.com/invisiblethreadfilms



Review : Roger Walker-Dack

Editor in Chief : Queerguru 
Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and NLGJA The Association of LGBT 
Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributung Editor The Gay Uk &Contributor Edge Media 
Former CEO and Menswear Designer of  Roger Dack Ltd in the UK    
one of the hardest-working journalists in the business' Michael Goff of Towleroad

Posted by queerguru  at  15:12


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