The author of ‘Years and Years’ brings us this hard-hitting, heart-wrenching portrait of the earth-shattering outbreak of AIDS in the 80’s in London
In ‘It’s A Sin’, Russell T. Davies paints a portrait of the AIDS outbreak in 1980’s London that evidences many clear brushstrokes from two of his most celebrated works. From ‘Queer As Folk’ he recovers the idea of a group of friends hell-bent on freely experiencing their sexuality, beginning with an intimate and up-close introspection and then arriving at a much broader discourse on overcoming prejudice, both from governments and from close family members themselves. From ‘Years and Years’, Davies shows us the political and historical context, whether of the past or dystopian, as a synthesis of the present: his series deals with AIDS, but it works perfectly as a parable of a world doomed to suffering a plague that leaves gaping wounds uncovered.
Legacy aside, ‘It’s a Sin‘ is surely one of Davies’ best and most personal works. Very often, this type of a story designed to denounce the situation succumbs to the temptation of pedantic lecturing, as along the way it forgets to construct credible characters and rigorous dramatic articulation. In other words, the fact that a drama is required, insofar as it grants visibility to a subject that requires the maximum possible attention, does not necessarily make it good. This is not the case here. This series premiered on HBO is brilliant in its portrayal of the AIDS pandemic from different perspectives, because Davies knows how to make the protagonists question audiences at every turn and with each decision, and for its devastating look at stigma and that no matter how often people insist on playing it down, still persist today.
Davies has an undeniable command of emotional impact. As was the case in ‘Years and Years’, here he builds an intimate and credible story, populated by characters who appeal to our empathy as they appear before us on screen accompanied by soundbites and attitudes that are all too familiar. And just as we become trapped in this universe of longings and projections, a heavy dose of reality spoils everything. Davies, often referred to as a once-in-a-generation writer, adeptly play with the passage of time in ‘It’s a Sin’ and history is the spoiler that tells us will all certainty most of his protagonists will never see thirty candles. Although the decade of the 80’s is often referred to as some sort of ennobling hiatus, is presented here as the interrupted dream of countless people who saw their identity veneered and who had to live with a pending fear of death. And this is the very aspect that makes ‘It’s a Sin’ a particularly hard-hitting and uncomfortable series, because as you watch, you’re well-aware that the protagonists are walking headlong along a path that leads to their doom. You watch, heavy-hearted because you know catharsis is coming but it’s going to be anything but soothing. It is, therefore, a series to remind us that other pandemics are not that far off, and that their echoes survive today because, deep down, society insists on making the same mistakes and holding onto the same prejudice.
If it manages to go beyond the pure and simple recreation, this is thanks to his characters with all their nuances who embody very different points of view, even divergent, on the same subject. In this sense, the excellent performances by the entire cast contributes greatly (watch out for the magnificent Olly Alexander, who we’ll definitely be hearing from again). Characters you end up identifying and concurring with so intensely that it’ll leave you completely gobsmacked. This is an essential series to understand where we come from and, also, where we are now.