29 March 2015 | paul2001sw-1
Films about mass tragedy can be hard to make without mawkishness; but 'Don't Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves', a Swedish series about the A.I.D.S. epidemic of the 1980s, is simply superb. It presents a nuanced picture of the lives of the Stockholm gay community, in some senses hedonistic, in other senses, just a group of young men as desirous of such conservative notions as family as anyone else. And it presents a highly perceptive picture of many things: attitudes to gayness in general (at a time of much lower general tolerance than today), the simple wretchedness of death, the strange awfulness of certain types of religious belief, but above all else, the utter (and understandable) unpreparedness of the community for their imminent mass extermination. I guess that none of us are ever ready to die, but the series makes us understand why someone might kill themselves on diagnosis rather than live on for a while amid an ever dwindling number of their fellow doomed. The script is smart as well, initially driven by Rasmus, but the lead on the story soon passes over to Benjamin, his boyfriend. But the story's heart is really provided by Simon Berger's Paul, the focal point of the group, whose droll mother-queenery at first seems a cruel response to the illness of his friends, but which eventually turns into the closest thing possible to defiance (and even then it isn't much) in the face of a truly unbearable end. For those of us who live in the west, the primary threat of the disease has thankfully passed; but this is the best, most sympathetic and also most moving, telling of that story I have seen.