Before I Forget

Before I Forget


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Pierre is 58. At that stage in life, many people find it hard to come to terms with the ageing process, but Pierre's struggle is compounded by the effects of illness, the loss of his lover, and his attachment to a romanticised past in which he was adored as a rent boy.

But he is far from finding himself at the end of his life. It's not death which scares Pierre so much as change. HIV positive but largely symptom free for 24 years (yes, this does sometimes happen in real life), he's nervous about the prospect of taking a new drug therapy. He was relaxed about his finances, but the discovery that his lover's will has been stolen, leaving him with nothing but a (comparatively meagre) life insurance policy, throws his plans into disarray.

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His psychiatrist urges him to enjoy himself with younger men, but though he cheerfully pays for hustlers, he's wary of emotional contact - he doesn't want to be fooled by someone who will take all his money. Though he acknowledges that he really loved the man who provided for him ("even though it wasn't in that way"), he's afraid of getting into any similar relationship.

Before I Forget is a study not only of one man's journey but also of a way of life which, in brittle contact with the modern world, is fast disappearing. The reaction of some youthful gay audiences to the film suggests that it has largely been forgotten already. It's the life of a generation who grew up when homosexuality was a taboo subject, when some asked for tolerance but nobody suggested it could be a positive component of identity.

Cut off from traditional family networks, these men formed systems of protection and inheritance amongst themselves, with rules and courtesies which came to seem so natural that Pierre cannot help but be shocked by the way his lover's family dismiss his rights. He won't stand up for himself because he has long since learned to think of it as impossible. Though he is witty and urbane, still quite handsome, charming and affectionate, he has habitual low self-esteem and low expectations of society. He contemplates suicide, a way of cutting off time before the past dissolves. Meanwhile Marc, one of his favourite hustlers, wants to take him forward into the future, to introduce him to the modern gay world.

With its deceptively simple story, Before I Forget glides from one conversation to the next, revealing Pierre's circumstances through his interactions with his friends and only gradually letting us into the secret of who he is when he's alone. It's a powerful tribute to a fading world whose solitary nature seems utterly alien to the confident young things in today's clubs. Jacques Nolot - who wrote, directs and stars - has preserved a valuable slice of history and served it up in elegantly humane form.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2008
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An HIV positive man comes to terms with age, illness, and the death of his lover.

Director: Jacques Nolot

Writer: Jacques Nolot

Starring: Jacques Nolot, Jean-Pol Dubois, Marc Rioufol, Bastien d'Asnières, Gaetano Weysen-Volli, Bruno Moneglia, David Kessler

Year: 2007

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: France

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