Gay Related Immune Deficiency: the original name of the vicious virus we now know as HIV and AIDS. At the height of the epidemic back in the 1980’s, as the health of many spirited young men deteriorated, so did the moral fibre of others with the perception of the gay community mired in malice. Even in the year 2017, the stigma firmly attached, and the lack of education staggering. A deeply disheartening consistency of rendering the feelings of those who are positive redundant, when we never fully know the real circumstances behind them contracting the disease, as they simply want comfort and understanding.
A personal passion project for West Midlands-based director Dave Hastings, Grid is a beautifully performed, emotionally charged tribute to those still fighting and to those we’ve sadly lost. Mirroring the heartbreaking isolation suffered by Steve Salt’s ill protagonist with all around him unnerved by a red ribbon tied to his patient room door, the film harnesses its focus on the sympathetic efforts of Ernest Vernon’s Doctor Andrews and Charlie Clarke’s nurse Angie Wordsworth.
Long into the night, the strain etched across Andrews’ face speaks volumes, as he finds the sense of failure difficult to shake. Like his fellow medical specialists who are scrambling for definitive answers to the cause, he finds no comfort in the rhetoric that the condition is ‘the gay plague’ or ‘God’s way of cruel punishment’, reinforcing his desire to help regardless of age, gender or circumstance. Resuming a role which her fellow nurses have been reluctant to undertake, Angie’s calming and caring influence is merely solidified as she sits at the bed side of Daniel (Salt), creating a tender dynamic and juxtaposition through their philosophical and grounded outlooks.
The power of Grid is truly defined through its visual palette and the subtlety of its direction. The desaturated and muted opening frames that compliment the varying fears and anxieties these characters exude, shifting into the deep melancholic blues of its poignant late stages, becoming transfixed by Daniel’s story. Intertwined with the slight, considered delivery of its dialogue, the film never feels intrusive or gratuitous, as director Hastings impeccably observes over the enveloping beauty of his cast.
Gracefully allowing his co-stars to take centre stage, Ernest Vernon’s turn as Doctor Andrews undoubtedly makes a lasting and deeply saddening impression, almost dumbfounded by the desperate fact he is unable to make a significant difference to Daniel’s well being.
A performance that brims with authenticity and stifling intimacy, Steve Salt is outstanding in conveying the simmering pain inflicted by those who’ve abandoned him, along with a soulful, sweet nature through the delicacy of his figure movements. Never feeling burdened or weighed down by her duties, the sheer sensitivity instilled into the role of Angie by Charlie Clarke is superb, with her closing moments reading the contents of a particular letter truly overwhelming.
In poignantly touching on a topic that undoubtedly still needs better representation in the modern climate, whilst acknowledging the horror and fear of the unknown that broke many hearts three decades ago. Grid is remarkable proof that even in one’s darkest hour, love and care does indeed trump hate and prejudice. Simply stunning.