Three Months is available to stream now on Paramount +.
Three months can feel like a long time when you are eighteen, and everything around you is changing. But it can feel even longer when it’s your last summer before college, and you are waiting for an HIV test result after a random, drunken sexual encounter. Based on his own experiences, first-time filmmaker Jared Frieder’s comedy/drama, Three Months has finally arrived on Paramount + here in the UK and is packed to the brim with wit, charm and a range of important discussions on queer identity, sex, religion and belonging.
Caleb (Troye Sivan) sits in the waiting room at the local LGBTQ+ centre, nervously exploring the room with his eyes; as his name is called, Caleb walks into the doctor’s office and asks to be tested for everything. Caleb explains that a one-night stand several weeks ago resulted in the condom breaking, and the random guy he slept with had texted him a few days after to say he was HIV positive. The doctor calmly explains to Caleb that it will take 90 days of tests to ascertain whether he has contracted HIV fully. However, three months feels like an eternity for Caleb, especially during the final summer before college. At least Caleb has his best friend Dara (Brianne Tju) to confide in; however, Dara has her own troubles due to a secret lesbian affair with the married owner of the mini-mart where they work. To add to his woes, Caleb also has an estranged relationship with his mother, who is Orthodox Jewish, while his loving grandmother (Ellen Burstyn), with whom he lives, is struggling with the idea of moving out of the family home despite the encouragement of her husband (Louis Gossett Jr.). Therefore, Caleb keeps his concerns wrapped up and out of reach of those he loves. Searching for answers, Caleb watches youtube videos of the groundbreaking 1994 MTV reality show, The Real World: San Fransisco, where Pedro Zamora would make history by sharing his HIV diagnosis on TV.
Caleb’s sense of isolation lifts when he meets Estha (Viveik Kalra), a quiet, reserved young man who is also waiting for his HIV test results. Unlike Caleb, Estha keeps his sexuality hidden from his Hindu parents and is still attempting to navigate the interface between his beliefs and his sexual orientation. But as a relationship of mutual support develops, Caleb finds himself wondering whether Estha could be the future boyfriend he has been looking for.
At its heart, Three Months is a film about the final summer of adolescence and the journey toward adulthood. But it also explores the cultural, social and religious barriers many LGBTQ+ young people face as they attempt to find their place in the world. Caleb’s beliefs are proudly liberal, like those of his grandmother, but his mum’s Orthodox beliefs continue to haunt the family unit following his father’s death years before. Here Caleb’s sexuality continues to pose a barrier to reconciliation between mother and son. Meanwhile, Estha’s need to maintain his parent’s love leads him to keep his homosexuality secret. Here his upcoming move to college is the only real escape route. Caleb and Estha’s journey is one of self-discovery, rebirth, love and friendship with their new connection and potential HIV diagnosis, the spark that allows both boys to explore what really matters in their lives. Here Frieder gently dissects the ongoing stigma surrounding HIV diagnosis through the discussions between Estha and Caleb while attempting to reflect upon the progress made since Zamora came out in The Real World: San Fransisco. However, whether the competing side stories cloud this core narrative remains debatable in a movie that occasionally feels too full.
Despite this flaw, Three Months holds moments of brilliance as the energy, dynamism and doubts of late-teenage life are brought to the screen through the electric performances of Sivan, Tju and Kalra. The result is an assured LGBTQ+ coming-of-age comedy/drama and an impressive first feature from Frieder; after all, “It’s amazing what you can discover when life gets fucked up.”
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Despite minor flaws, Three Months also holds moments of sheer joy as the energy, dynamism and doubts of late-teenage life are brought to the screen through the electric performances of Sivan, Tju and Kalra.