Circus of Books (2019)

This Netflix documentary is one of those documentaries with a rather limited scope of interest (in this case, it’s about a conservative Jewish family that discreetly owned a gay porn store, providing their income for decades as well as a significant amount of shame and legal trouble) and manages to make the whole thing much more universal than suggested by its subject matter. Here, the subject that looms over the proceedings is the specter of AIDS, which arrived a few years after their store opened and impacted the community’s very fabric, including both their employees and customers. How the AIDS plague decimated the gay community in the 1980s seems to have had a profound impact on the Mason family, which was compounded by their own son coming out and forcing them to confront their own prejudices about the community in the process. All of it makes for an engaging, satisfyingly watch, made all the more intimate and profound by the movie’s director Rachel Mason, who also happens to be one of their adult children; it allows the movie’s subjects to be much more relaxed in their interviews, not to mention candidly honest the way only family can be, all of which adds an enormous amount of weight and significance to the subject matter at hand. It’s not the kind of movie that you’ll want to watch again and again or anything, but it’s certainly worth a shot on a quiet afternoon.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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