Three Needles Thom Fitzgerald

While Fitzgerald's The Event (his other contribution to the AIDS canon) sometimes veered into sentimentality, the trio of plot lines that make up Three Needles revel in the moral ambiguity of the AIDS crisis in Africa, China and Canada. Clara (Chloë Sevigny), an ingénue nun, goes to Africa to convert the dying before they're lost to purgatory, though she soon discovers that God's law and the harsh reality of AIDS don't mix. Jin Ping (Lucy Liu) desperately needs the money she gets from running a blood donation facility to support her family and ends up starting an epidemic. Denny (Shawn Ashmore), a porn actor in Montreal, makes "movies" to help his mother, no matter who he harms in the process. Three Needles is a bumpy ride; it's overflowing with thematic intensity as Fitzgerald not only makes statements on the AIDS crisis but on redemption, family, gender roles and bureaucracy. Instead of feeling like you've just watched something, you feel hit by it, partly due to the central message. But there's also an air of heavy-handedness. A rape that occurs at a roadblock seems gratuitous and out of place, as does Clara's self-punishing "needle." A film that chooses to shock an audience runs the risk of losing it. But Three Needles, for some reason, keeps you glued. The African storyline is an education on the vicious cycle that keeps the epidemic spreading in that country, with Fitzgerald using the landscape to add some simple but stunning visual moments. If Fitzgerald's choices are extreme, his sense of detail keeps the film authentic. But it still feels like you're watching three different movies. And that makes Three Needles an only passable addition to any canon. (Seville)