Given its radically casual depiction of homosexuality in the United States during the regressive, oppressive and plague-ridden 1980s, it’s’ downright astounding that “Parting Glances” was even made, let alone that it’s still so poignant all these decades later. It captures a society’s unrestrained hostility towards homosexuality, where visibility equals abuse, and how an entire generation of gay people was forced to live with daily fear and no government protection during the AIDS crisis. Luckily, the movie’s narrative is fairly basic and pleasantly mundane, which I suspect is intentional on the part of writer-director Bill Sherwood, who roots the movie’s core dynamics in the daily interactions of longtime lovers and friends. Set over the course of 24 hours, it follows boyfriends Michael and Robert as they prepare for Robert’s imminent departure on a two-year work assignment in Africa, and it’s extraordinary how Sherwood presents a casually loving, affectionate and flawed couple facing ordinary couple stuff in a society that didn’t even want them to exist. Richard Ganoung and John Bolger are completely believable in the leads but the movie belongs to a then-unknown Steve Buscemi as Michael’s best friend and former lover dying of AIDS: Buscemi authentically captures the caustic flippancy of an angry generation without alienating the audience, and he occupies the screen with confidence and verve. Also watch for Kathy Kinney (Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show”), who makes a striking film debut here as a close friend of all three men.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)