‘Three Months:’ A comedic, coming-of-age film about HIV

Troye Sivan, who stars in "Three Months" (2022), is pictured. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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Despite being mainly known for his singing career, Troye Sivan is no stranger to acting. In 2018, Sivan starred in “Boy Erased,” an adaptation of a memoir about a boy who struggles through conversion therapy, alongside Golden Globe-nominated actor, Lucas Hedges. Since “Boy Erased” (2018), Sivan has been focusing on his music career, with the release of an EP, “In A Dream,” in 2020 and a single, “Angel Baby,” in 2021. Sivan chose to merge his music career with his acting career in his recent project, “Three Months” (2022), where Sivan not only played the leading role, but also wrote and sang music for it.

Set in South Florida in 2011, “Three Months” follows Caleb (Troye Sivan), a gay teen who just graduated from high school, as he awaits his HIV. results. After a one-night stand with a man from a club, whom Caleb only agreed to hook up with in an attempt to get over his ex-boyfriend, Caleb gets a text saying that his one-night stand tested positive for HIV.. Caleb remembered that when they were together, the condom broke and he is now at risk for HIV.. As indicated by the title, the film spans the three months during which Caleb waits to find out if he is HIV positive and how his possible diagnosis causes rifts between him and his family and friends.

“Three Months” aims to tell a more comprehensive story surrounding HIV. Even today, there is still stigma surrounding HIV, and a majority of films that discuss the topic tend to be more intense dramas. This film takes a different approach and chooses to be a comedic, coming-of-age film. Much of the comedy of “Three Months” is rooted in Caleb’s character and Sivan’s performance. Caleb is an impatient, awkward gay teen who often catches himself making jokes in uncomfortable situations, rushing off from one activity to another to keep busy and avoiding the seriousness of his problems. Sivan’s portrayal of Caleb feels authentic, likely aided by the fact that Sivan himself is gay. Sivan does not turn Caleb into a common gay stereotype, like many actors do when they play gay characters, and rather focuses on making Caleb a relatable character that audience members, no matter their sexual orientation, can relate to. 

Although the film focuses on Caleb’s waiting for his diagnosis, the core of the film is the relationships Caleb has with those around him and how those relationships change as he struggles with waiting. Caleb’s best friend, Dara (Brianne Tju), proves to be a major support throughout the waiting period, and the chemistry between Tju and Sivan helps the audience see a beautiful connection between these two characters. Watching the film, it is hard to believe that Tju and Sivan are not best friends. The pair argue like best friends, joke around together like best friends and most importantly, love each other unconditionally. Similar to Dara, Caleb’s grandmother (Ellen Burstyn), is another important support for him, although she is not informed of his possible diagnosis as early as it is revealed to Dara.

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In the film, Caleb’s father passed away and his mother is largely not present in his life, so his grandmother is his main caretaker and parental figure. Because of his father’s passing, Caleb is hesitant to tell his grandmother that he might have HIV, as he does not want to stress her out or cause her any more pain. When she is finally informed that Caleb is waiting for HIV results, the scene is extremely heartwarming as Caleb is told by his grandmother that she loves him and that he should never have kept something like that from her out of fear.

The final key relationship in the film is between Caleb and Estha (Viveik Kalra), a fellow gay teen who is awaiting his own HIV results. The two form a bond and a romance in the three-month waiting period. What is interesting about the dynamic between Caleb and Estha is that the characters are complete opposites of each other. Caleb has a family that loves him and accepts him, while Estha struggles with the fear of coming out to his  religious, and potentially disapproving, Hindu family. Estha is more closed off and throughout their relationship, Caleb encourages him to open up and leave his insecurities behind. The juxtaposition of these characters serves to show how differences in family upbringing can lead people to make drastically different choices in dealing with serious issues, such as HIV diagnosis.

The lesson of “Three Months” is that although the risk of an HIV diagnosis is a real fear for many, there is more to life with HIV than just the stigmas that surround it. “Three Months” aims to further destigmatize HIV and shows that life with the disease, or life with the possibility of the disease, is still life.

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Summary

Though the film was largely predictable, Sivan and supporting cast members delivered strong performances and successfully achieved their goal of providing the world with a film that takes a more positive approach in looking at H.I.V. and the stigma surrounding it.

3.5 stars
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