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BPM (Beats per Minute) also known as 120 BPM (Beats per Minute) (French: 120 Battements par minute), is a French drama film from 2017, directed and co-written by Robin Campillo. Based on the real live experiences of Campillo and script co-writer, Philippe Mangeot, the story is set in the LGBT community of Paris in the early 1990s, smack in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, and follows the Paris chapter of the activist group ACT UP, as they struggle to spur the French state into action in the fight against the epidemic.

The story unfolds from the perspectives of the HIV-negative Nathan, a more moderately inclined newbie in the organisation, and the HIV-positive Sean, an experienced member who favors a more radical approach. As they participate in the organisation's meetings and demonstrations, Nathan and Sean fall in love, and what starts as a sexual relationship, soon becomes gradually more serious. Unfortunately, Sean is already exhibiting signs of the disease's progression...

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Tropes:

  • The '90s: Set in the early 1990s, complete with high waisted light wash jeans and House Music.
  • Alone in a Crowd: In a particularity sad moment, Sean's illness has left him effectively bedridden, while Nathan still try to attend ACT UP's events and demonstrations. But when out dancing with the other members, Nathan finds that the whole thing feels hollow without Sean there to dance with him.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Invoked by Sean. As a part of his last will and testament, he demands that his ashes are shattered over the attendants of a health insurance conference as a part of a protest. His friends in ACT UP comply with his wish, and his mother agrees to it, on the only condition is that she gets some of his ashes for herself to bury.
  • Beach Episode: Nathan takes Sean on a trip to the beach to help take his mind off of things.
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  • Berserk Button: For Sean - being too apologetic or soft in face of people dying, weakness as opposed to strength, big pharma, and just about everything that comes out Thibault's mouth.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Sean was raised in Chile and is half French, half Chilean.
    • This feature of Sean's character was added because the actor who plays him, Nahuel Perez Biscayart, is Argentine and thus has a slight accent when he speaks French.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Sean is a smoker, but he especially smokes when he is upset, angry, or stressed.
  • Common Hollywood Sex Traits: Averted. This movie includes some of the less Hollywood-glamorous parts of sex in a way that makes it more realistic, such as putting on and taking off condoms, using lube, undressing, and changing positions.
  • Disposable Love Interest: Sean and Max are seemingly in some kind of established relationship at the very beginning of the movie, but it disappears about 20 minutes into the film and without explanation.
  • Despair Event Horizon: As the disease starts to take his body, Sean becomes less involved in ACT UP and more reclusive, physically unable to be his usually fiery self.
  • Flash Back Echo: Sean and Nathan have flashbacks to their previous sexual experiences whilst in bed.
  • Hot-Blooded: Sean, mostly radicalized by his own circumstances.
  • Gentle Giant: Nathan. He's tall, muscular, and garners whistles from the crowds when he is first introduced to ACT UP, but he's really a big sweetheart.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: A terminally-ill and severely weakened Sean has Nathan Mercy Kill him, rather than let him suffer through the pain and indignity of the last stage of the decease.
  • Irrational Hatred: Not exactly hatred, but Sean admits that he doesn't know why he dislikes Thibault so much, implying that his feelings of disdain run deeper than some heated debates in the meeting room.
  • The Lost Lenore: Sort of. Nathan talks about his past lover, Arnaud, whose fate is unknown. Nathan likes to think Arnaud is still alive, but he last heard he was very sick in hospital. Either way, this clearly affects Nathan and is one of the reasons he joined ACT UP Paris.
    • Director Robin Campillo says this story is based on his real-life first boyfriend, whose fate is still uncertain.
  • Loveable Rogue: While Sean doesn't break the law per se, he does often break the rules and is generally a controversial figure within ACT UP. He often ditches the group's plans remain civil and arguably goes a bit too far, doing more harm than good. But you can't help but love and support him.
  • Mama Bear: Hélène (Marco’s mother) and arguably Sean’s mother.
  • Next Thing They Knew: Sean and Nathan’s relationship moves pretty quickly and is anything but a slow burn, which is understandable given the circumstances.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Most, if not all of the members of ACT UP who are gay are in their 20s and 30s.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Nathan talks about how he stopped having sex for a number of years upon hearing about HIV/AIDS, which helped him avoid contracting the virus. However, he started having sex again when realized the effectiveness of condoms.
  • Pride Parade: Two Paris gay pride parades are shown, and ACT UP Paris stages demonstrations at both. There is also talk of what other ACT UP branches have done at their respective pride parades to raise awareness.
  • Queer Character, Queer Actor: Director Robin Campillo says he made a point of casting queer actors to play queer characters (although the sexualities of the individual cast members is not necessarily known).
  • Rookie Red Ranger: Despite being new to ACT UP and seemingly activism in general, Nathan dives right in, getting involved in demonstrations and handing out safe sex pamphlets from the get go. Thibault takes a liking to him and invites him to meetings with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Scenery Porn: Includes shots of the beach, the French suburbs and countryside, the streets of Paris, and many of these include rivers and sunsets.
  • Sex for Solace: After Sean's death, Nathan has a one-night stand with Thibault. He breaks down crying in sorrow in the middle of it.
  • Sexposition: Basically the entirety of Sean and Nathan’s 12 minute sex scene.
  • Stupid Neutral: It can be argued that Thibault falls into this category, especially in the eyes of Sean and other "back-row radicals".
  • Tagalong Kid: Marco, a young hemophiliac who contracted HIV via a blood transfusion.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Sean kisses Nathan to piss off a homophobic teenager.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Sean tells the story of how he contracted HIV from his math teacher when he was 16, his first time. Although Nathan questions it, Sean claims that he loved and trusted him, and that getting HIV was as much his own fault as it was his teacher’s for not being more careful.
  • Vader Breath: One scene features a voiceover of bedridden and very sick Sean's labored breathing.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Some members of ACT UP Paris (namely Thibault) take a more moderate, diplomatic stance while more radical members, such as Sean, want to raise hell. One side wants to garner sympathy and the other wants to demonstrate strength and be unapologetic of who they are. The varying voices lead to near-constant infighting as they fight for their common goal.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The case for Sean and the majority of the other members of ACT UP, as most of them are HIV-Positive, which in the early 1990s was still very much equalled a condition that would eventually turn lethal. This also what drives many of them in their radical activism; they literally have nothing left to lose.

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