DATELINE: Reel History
Back in 1991 when the AIDS epidemic was a death sentence, a spate of films emerged about the fear, anger, disgust, and regret, of the sickness and end of so many young gay men. The film is called Our Sons.
There was no hope of recovery or of living with control. When one character in this film is asked why he hasn’t been tested, he shrugs: there is nothing to be done one way or the other. It was a death sentence in a year or two. Knowing one’s fate made no difference.
Several brave actors chose to depict the crisis: in this film the sons are lovers, Hugh Grant and Zelkjo Ivanek. Their relationship covers the final weeks of the disease’s ravages.
There are no kisses and it is chaste to the point of being inoffensive. The young men are successful a jazz pianist and an architect, just to give everyone respectability.
The draw is the problem of their mothers, played by Julie Andrews and Ann-Margaret. Both unhappy with gay sons, Julie Andrews must try to bring Ann-Margaret, a waitress from Arkansas, to San Diego to reconcile with her estranged son.
Two marvelous actresses jab and punch at each other as they try to deal with the plague of the age. Julie Andrews and Ann-Margaret are at the top of their careers here.
Interestingly, Hugh Grant is the son of Andrews (who is English, but Grant plays it with an American accent). Ann-Margaret whose hair is the same color as Andrews wears a blonde wig most of the time.
The film is a snapshot of a time when a generation of talent died without hope, before drug cocktails to prevent instant death. Yet, as an historic artifact, the film is compelling and powerful, even twenty years after it was topical and controversial.