This movie that was released in 1993, dared to venture into territory unexplored till then. It was an attempt by director Jonathan Demme to deal seriously with the issue of HIV/AIDS as well as homophobia. Written by Ron Nyswaner, the movie is inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who in 1987 sued the law firm Baker & McKenzie for unfair dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases.
In the film Tom Hanks plays the role of Andrew Beckett who is employed with a large corporate law firm in Philadelphia as a senior associate. He however hides his sexuality and disease from his co- workers. But lesions begin to appear on his skin and he is increasingly being questioned about his health, with some of his co-workers even suspecting him of having contracted the disease. He takes a few days off from office, although he keeps working from his home for an important case. Soon, he is dismissed by the firm on a flimsy charge of negligence. Now his actual fight against discrimination- both in his office and society- begins. No lawyer, including personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) is ready to take up his case fearing they would contract the disease too. Andrew decides to be his own attorney. Later, however, Miller has a change of heart and he take up his case. The defense not only questions his competence but also his lifestyle. Beckett also reveals that the homophobic comments of his peers kept him from telling them about his sexuality. After a bitterly fought court battle, the jury rules in his favour. However, Beckett soon succumbs to the disease.
It is remarkable to note that the movie was released in the early nineties, when awareness on HIV/AIDS wasn’t too high among the people. It does a fine job of portraying both homophobia and AIDS discrimination simultaneously. Scenes where Miller goes for a check- up after shaking hands with Beckett or when while researching for his case, he is suggested by the librarian to move into a private room lest others feel uncomfortable, go on to portray some of the hardships that people afflicted with the disease have to face. Antonio Banderas as Beckett’s partner also makes his presence felt. Tom Hanks even won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Critically acclaimed, the movie would also make you wonder whether there’s been much change even after two decades.
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