3 Needles Movie Review
A collection of three short films connected only by their central theme that a lack of AIDS awareness around the world can lead to nothing but the most abject kinds of tragedy. Writer/director Thom Fitzgerald sets his short stories in China, Montreal, and South Africa, each outlining its own depressing reality.
In China, the hugely pregnant Jin Ping (Liu) traffics in blood. Driving from village to village, she pays villagers about $5 to collect their pints, disguises it with a label that says "spicy red sauce," and hopes she'll be able to get her crates past soldiers' road blocks. Unsanitary collection and distribution of the blood leads to an AIDS epidemic, completely obliterating the village of Tong Sam (Tanabadee Chokpikultong), who even sold his daughter's blood when his was deemed unacceptable due to illness.
In Montreal, 3 Needles adds a touch of very dark comedy. Young local porn star Denys (Shawn Ashmore) is infected and can't pass the porn industry's required monthly HIV tests, so he circumvents them by using blood he steals from his nearly comatose father. His mother Olivia (a great Stockard Channing), strapped for cash, learns of Shawn's deceit and tries to set up an elaborate insurance scam to profit off his eventual inevitable death. She even tries to infect herself at one point, depending on a most unsavory character to pass her the bug in a highly undignified way. You'll love her French-Canadian accent.
The film's most gripping story takes place on a gorgeous stretch of the South African coast, where three missionary nuns arrive to tend to AIDS victims and soon find themselves caught up in a real horror show. Sister Hilde (Olympia Dukakis) is the wise old bird who sees nothing but her mission to bring souls to Jesus. Novice sister Clara (Chloe Sevigny) is more grounded in daily reality, desperately trying to improve conditions for those who are suffering, even taking in a family of five children when they are orphaned by AIDS. Sister Mary John (Sandra Oh) helps her out. When Sister Clara discovers that the locals believe having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, it explains the nightmarish baby rapes she's been hearing about. She tries to get the local white overlord Hallyday (Ian Roberts) to help, but he can only come up with a repulsive quid pro quo. Will Clara sell her own soul to help others' souls?
All of this is extremely depressing, but it's also fascinating, scenic, and very well crafted. Production notes reveal that an alternate cut interlaces the three stories, but for once, saner heads have prevailed, and we needn't suffer through Babel or Crash-like confusion in the mainstream release. Instead we can focus on the great performances and the heartbreaking dilemmas and wonder why more people haven't heard about this unusual film.
Aka Three Needles.