I have come to look forward to the work of East Coast director Thom Fitzgerlad. While his studio piece The Event was a muddled let down, his independent work from The Hanging Garden to the exquisite Wild Dogs have been very impressive. Three Needles is no exception.
Three Needles is a globe spanning epic studying the effect of HIV in different parts of the world. Lucy Liu plays a woman struggling to get safe blood to those who need it in China despite the government’s efforts. Cloe Sevingy plays a young nun working in impoverished Africa. Shawn Ashmore plays a porn star in Montreal dealing with his own infection.
Each of these stories plays out in a manner which underscores the diverse devastation of this disease. Each tale is beautifully told and performed. One of the things I enjoy most about Fitzgerald’s work is how he manages the heart and the mind, stimulating both, managing to be both sentimental and intelligent. He achieves this again in Three Needles.
Three Needles also doesn’t assume to hold your hand. It doesn’t make moral judgments or sermonize. Instead, Fitzgerald finds moving stories that impact us and allows us to draw our own conclusions. There are no unbiased stories (this is the mistake that Michael Moore’s critics make – it’s not that they dislike that he’s taken a position, they dislike his position) and Fitzgerald’s story takes us to a certain place. But it also recognizes the complexities of the issues at hand and doesn’t pretend that the answers are easy.
He also infuses the story with a good deal of humour. Three Needles remains enjoyable to watch. It’s beautiful too. He knows how to take advantage of beautiful locations whether they are in Asia, Africa or Canada. Therefore Three Needles isn’t a depressing, heavy film to bog you down. It balances the entertainment factor with its moving aspects to make a very satisfying film.
While I personally don’t feel it surpasses his work in Wild Dogs, I love that he has returns from the schmaltzy path he had gone down in The Event. Check out Three Needles. While it’s getting a limited run in the US, it has already screened and aired on television in Canada and other parts of the world.