Lonely hearts club

Anahi Bernieri’s A Year Without Love is a sensitive yet challenging exploration of the loneliness suffered by a gay HIV-positive man in Buenos Aires


A Year Without Love
Anahi Bernieri, Argentina
2005, Peccadillo Pictures
91 minutes

Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez

LATAMROB rating: ***

JUAN IS A gay poet living in the 1980s who left his life in Paris after his boyfriend died of Aids.

In Buenos Aires, he lives frugally with his spinster aunt, and has a mundane job as a French teacher but the saddest thing in his life is the prospect of not finding love again because he has been diagnosed HIV-positive. “What am I, what am I looking for?” he writes on his typewriter.

The poet starts a new year already suffering some of the effects of the immune deficiency, but is determined to live life hoy por hoy (day by day).

However, although he decides to place an advert in the lonely hearts’ column seeking a companion, his only prospects are casual sexual encounters he finds while cruising in the Buenos Aires gay clubs.

Feeling guilty that he has the virus, Juan decides to be open about his condition. His clinic has decided to refer him to another hospital, where he is offered a trial on the Aids medicine AZT.

Although he is fearful because he has known guys who had an adverse reaction to that new treatment, he realises he has no option. At the same time, he joins a group of men who practice bondage, where he finds friendship and, finally, possibly love.

Young director, Anahi Bernieri, tricks the audience into believing that the main character is going to have a lonely and painful dead and that this film will be a weepy, then manages to tone down the situation and bring it to a level in which each day lived is a battle won against the character’s medical condition, family circumstances (his father and auntie are sickened by gays and eventually ask him to leave the house), and his own feeling of inadequacy.

If you were scandalised by Brokeback Mountain, turn your head away: A Year Without Love contains graphic scenes of bondage that some viewers may find distasteful. However, the way this film has been directed reveals Benieri’s very female touch, which interestingly does not feel as gay as a straight audience would imagine such stories could be. The director provides a sincere account of the feeling of loneliness that someone who has recently been diagnosed with the condition feels, while also providing a hint of hope.

A Year Without Love is a biopic based on a novel by the Argentinian writer Pablo Pérez, who was also the subject of a documentary made in France by Lionel Soukas (Pablo Pérez, ecrivain argentin, 1991).

Georgina Jiménez is a freelance Mexican writer