Dallas Buyers Club (2013) – Film Review

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Dallas Buyers Club is a story of defiance and suffering that bares a disturbing relevance to our current society. MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS

Ron Woodroof, played with unwavering conviction and depth by Matthew McConaughey, is an electrician and hustler fighting against AIDS and the institutions that stand between the patient and the cure. Devastatingly, pharmaceutical companies insist on prescribing AZT (a drug that was later discovered to work only in much smaller doses) to patients instead of the medicine proven to have a positive, preventative impact on people. Enraged and enthused by this, Woodroof sets up a Dallas Buyers Club designed to provide HIV positive individuals with the treatment options that they require. This system skirts the law by selling Club memberships in exchange for the medicine disapproved by the DEA. Woodroof’s operation is eventually shut down, however he wins a court case granting him a lifetime supply of the drugs that have sustained him for far longer than 30 days, the amount of time doctors claimed he had left.

The beauty of this true story is two-fold. It is the tragic tale of one man’s courageous optimism in the face of despair, and it is also a film that takes Woodroof’s outrage at pharmaceutical companies and their refusal to listen to the general public and uses it to remind us of our current situation. Right now the government is ignoring the compelling evidence that cannabis cures cancer purely because it is an unprofitable solution. As a result of this, every moment of Woodroof’s personal struggle oozes with a certain sensitivity that originates from the audience’s ability to feel empathy. McConaughey’s poignant depiction of inner turmoil and loneliness intensifies this to a degree that leaves us feeling isolated from larger institutions and fundamentally alone in the pursuit of right over wrong.

Thankfully, however, camaraderie, reassurance and relief all emerge in the form of Eve (Jennifer Garner), a progressive doctor who finds Woodroof’s operation both touching and admirable. She looks past his tough redneck persona and his homophobic nature; she is able to see him as a passionate individual dedicated to helping people, and this gives both Woodroof and the audience hope.

On the other end of the scale stands Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual suffering from AIDS that sparks up a relationship with Woodroof against all odds. They meet in hospital, and through their shared fear and disillusionment they form a bond that grows throughout the film as they pour their remaining strength into establishing an alternative healthcare system. Rayon, portrayed with vulnerability and force by Leto, opens Woodroof’s heart by slowly wearing away at his culturally charged prejudice. The culmination of this takes place when they go shopping together. Rayon is verbally abused by Woodroof’s narrow-minded friends from his former life of sex, alcohol and gambling, and he acts to defend her, grabbing one of the men by his neck and viciously humiliating him.

Through his suffering and a series of heartfelt connections with Eve and Rayon, Woodroof is softened at his very core, gaining an acute understanding of human sensitivity and a powerful sense of community (namely the Dallas Buyers Club). Therefore, this film is not merely an accurate portrait of the age old fight between the government and its everyman. It is also a powerful examination of the influence that our background plays in shaping us, and the grave change that it takes to release us from our past experiences, especially if they are nothing but a vibrant blur of drugs, desire and self-destruction.

My rating: 8/10

Arthur Kay-Ingrams

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