3 Needles
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Thom Fitzgerald
with ChloŽ Sevigny, Stockard Channing, Tanabadee Chokpikultong, Shawn Ashmore, Olympia Dukakis, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, Ian Roberts, Siv Mbelu, William Mtakati, Marc Trottier, Cory Bowles
release UK 31.Oct.05 lff,
US 1.Dec.06
05/Canada 2h03

Madonna and child: Channing and Ashmore

sevigny dukakis liu

Toronto Film Fest London Film Fest

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3 Needles Canadian filmmaker Fitzgerald gets rather over-ambitious with this three-strand Aids drama set on three continents. There are moments of sheer brilliance, but it's far too self-important and, ultimately, contrived.

In Africa, a novice nun (Sevigny) arrives with two colleagues (Dukakis and Oh). A local landowner (Roberts) controls the local tribal society, which is rife with Aids and getting worse due to local superstitions. In China, a man (Chokpikultong) is annoyed that he can't donate blood to a contraband runner (Liu). But soon his family--and everyone else--is sick and dying. And in Montreal, a porn actor (Ashmore) hides his HIV status, infecting several costars as a result. His mother (Channing) then sets out to make things right. In a way.

There are huge ideas swirling through every scene examining a global epidemic that indiscriminately hands death sentences to poor families and a lifetime of medication to rich ones. And the film spirals out to examine the concept of charity work, especially selfless actions driven by a pure love for humanity rather than the desire to make a buck. Along the way, Fitzgerald fills the film with local colour, much of which is completely off the topic.

The problem is that the theme is so strong that it didn't need to be filled out. And these naturalistic, artistic, ethnic sideroads merely distract us from the issue at hand. Also, Fitzgerald treats the Aids issue with such over-serious reverence that it's almost hard to watch. We can tell we should be feeling lots of emotion due to the lush camera work, swelling music and expressive, internalised performances (Channing is the standout), but when a filmmaker pushes this hard it's impossible to engage with anything.

And then the awkwardly structured plot takes some unlikely turns that make it hard for us to believe in the characters. Yes, we know the world has been ravaged by this disease, which undermines every aspect of community life, and that the people with the ability to help are doing very, very little. But no matter how true and sporadically powerful this film is, it doesn't seem to have anything else to say.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, nudity, sexuality 1.Nov.05 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... 3 Needles m, uk: 5/5 "What a stunner! Fitzgerald demonstrates a complex awareness of his characters and their contexts. Ignorance, of both disease and cultural difference, plays a central role in the film; characters' seemingly altruistic acts have unforeseen, negative repercussions. Poverty is a prime motivator for many of those who exploit or endanger others here, though tellingly, it's only in the North American story that the principals seem to do so consciously. Fitzgerald thus indirectly indicts the West's refusal to respond to the spread of AIDS and other diseases worldwide." (8.Feb.06)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall