A couple of astonishing performances are the centrepiece of this fact-based drama set during the mid-1980s outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. A barely recognisable Matthew McConaughey lost nearly 50 pounds to embody Ron Woodroof, the homophobic hellraiser whose promiscuous lifestyle puts him at death’s door. Diagnosed HIV-positive and told he has a month to live, the womanising rodeo cowboy initially refuses to accept the verdict. Despite his rapidly deteriorating health, Ron’s determined to put up a fight. Thwarted by the apathy of the US medical establishment, he decides to smuggle in unapproved anti-viral treatments, which he eventually sells to fellow AIDS sufferers. The anti-gay bigot-turned-AIDS activist also forms an unlikely alliance with another HIV victim, a transgender called Rayon. Adapted from a 1992 article in a local Dallas newspaper, director Jean-Marc Vallee pulls no punches in his depiction of the physical and emotional toll the disease takes. The project took almost 20 years to come to fruition. Incredibly, the film was ultimately shot in a mere 25 days. Pharmaceutical companies as well as the government’s Food and Drug Administration are indicted for their inability/unwillingness to provide effective and affordable medicines for the ever-increasing number of afflicted patients. The script’s strength lies in creating multidimensional characters that succeed in transcending their superficial differences. Among the several compassionate moments count the final heartrending embrace between Ron and Rayon and the scene in which the latter pleads for help from his conservative father. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are frontrunners for the Oscars, to be announced over the weekend. Just for their indelible performances, this movie is a must-experience.