I’ve finished watching the British drama series “It’s a sin”, written and created by Russell T Davies (“Queer as folk” and “Years and Years”), directed by Peter Hoar, aired on Channel 4, and I am feeling like being punched in the stomach. The series is set in London in the 80s and depicts the lives of a group of gay men and their friends who lived during the HIV / AIDS crisis in the United Kingdom.
The narrative unfolds around the lives of three young gay men, from different backgrounds and personal and professional aspirations who moved to London in the early 1980s: Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander) is the hedonistic and irreverent young man, son of a traditional and homophobic family in the Isle of Wight who goes to London to go to a college. Roscoe Babatunde (Omari Douglas) is an outgoing and effeminate gay man who moved to England with his Nigerian family in search of a better life. Roscoe’s parents are religious and do not accept his sexual orientation. He decides to flee from home so as not to be sent back to Nigeria as a punishment. Colin Morris-Jones (Callum Scott Howells) from the Welsh valleys, is quieter, naive and thrilled by his new job at a tailor shop.
The lives of the 3 are connected through Jill Baxter, beautifully played by Lydia West who is a kind of gay godmother and mentor. Jill is an open-minded young woman, with Black – Latin roots, who rents vacancies in her flat for gays men. She lives with her gay friend Ash Mukherjee (Nathaniel Curtis). The five begin to live together under the same roof, in search of their dreams and the freedom to live their sexualities in London. However, the emergence of the first AIDS / HIV cases in the United States overshadows their dream of freedom.
Each of the five young people reacts differently to the new reality. Colin sees his friend and colleague Henry (Neil Patrick Harris), a sweet, gentleman who has been living with his partner, Pablo, for 30 years, being hospitalised and isolated, after Pablo also manifested the symptoms of the disease and was taken to Portugal by his family. Jill sees life change when she finds out that her Scottish friend Gregorio has been infected by the virus, but out of shame, he wants to keep it a secret. Jill starts to help him, while she decides to seek information about the disease through publications in the United States since, at that time, the British media and politics did not disclose anything about HIV. Rosco, Colin and Ash start to be alarmed by the approach of the virus in the London community, while Ritchie assumes a selfish and negative attitude, maintaining his lifestyle and his ambitions plans to be an actor.
The flatmates realise the seriousness of the problem when Colin, the youngest man with the most exemplary behaviour in the group, is diagnosed with the virus and is detained in a hospital under Public Health Act, 1984, which treated HIV / AIDS patients like criminals. From this point on, the 4 friends come together to get their friend Colin free, and give him a more dignified end of life, start to combat all the homophobia that grows day by day towards them, and deal with the traumas of losses of their beloved friends and fight for their survival.
The TV show portrays the naked truth about how the UK politicians and society neglected in combating the virus and to offer adequate treatment for people who got the virus. AIDS / HIV was seen as “a plague caused by homosexuals”, and which would never reach heterosexuals, so it was not an issue worthy of being tackled with social and public health policies during the early years. This fostered much more prejudice and homophobia with the LGBTQIA ++ community and victimised even more people during the 80s.
The series also portrays how the LGBTQIA ++ community and supporters had to organize themselves to defend their causes and show that AIDS did not put the community at risk, but the entire population. This moment represents the union of the LGBTQIA ++ community in pursuit of inclusive public policies and rights, in addition to increasing visibility in the media and British society.
The director Russell T Davies managed to create a masterpiece that proposes to pay homage to friends and so many other people who are victims of AIDS / HIV – as he declared in press interviews, showing how freedom sadly and unfairly became a cruel risk to life, for a minority that was already left to fend for themselves, disowned by families and friends, seen as the scum of society. The director also pays tribute to real-life friend Jill, who in the series is transformed into the character of the same name and played by Lydia West, the girl who loves them and helps them, and galvanizes them in the battles to come.
Although an extremely delicate topic, Davies managed to impress some softness when discussing the theme, through friendship relationships and affection, showing that love, compassion, empathy and solidarity are fundamental elements in times when human existence is threatened by invisible enemies like AIDS / HIV in 80s and 90s or current the COVID-19 pandemic, for example.
The series is a bitter and poignant historical reminder of the difficult times that the LGBTQIA ++ community lived, a tribute to the victims of the virus, families and friends, but above all, “It’s a sin” celebrates the lives of gays who fought for a more just world and survived, mixed with marginalized gay culture scene and the electrifying soundtrack of the 80s and 90s.
See the official trailer below