Bones: Contemporary AIDS Drama

AFI-LA Film Festival 1993–Yves Chery makes a decent debut as producer-writer-director of Bones, a contemporary AIDS drama situated in a middle-class African-American community. Indie pic is flawed by uneven writing and preachy dialogue, but its realistic context, smooth style, and amiable cast should increase its chances for a limited theatrical showing beyond the festival circuit.

Set in present-day L.A., “Bones” is the story of a sexy, newlywed black couple that suddenly has to face the realization that they are afflicted with the AIDS virus. Bello (Terrence Riggins), is a compassionate counselor and loving husband of Simbi (Devika Parikh), a beautiful real-estate loan officer.

The first part of the cautionary tale traces Bello’s daily routine: love-making to his wife, sensitive sessions with his AIDS patients, socializing with his buddy Wendell (Reginald Hobbs), a macho man who has hard time accepting the fact that he had lost his younger brother to the lethal disease. The second, more dramatic, part documents the inevitable tragic effects of the illness on the couple and their close friends.

Chery’s achievement is in defying excessive melodramatics and easy sentimentality. Though utterly shocked and devastated when his loyal doctor (David G. Thomas) informs him he has tested HIV positive, there is no hysterics or self-pity in Riggins’ reaction–only the natural and expected comment, “why me what have I done”

In his benign, informed philosophy, scripter Chery goes out of his way to fight facile stereotyping of the fatal ailment (that it’s a strictly gay disease, that blacks afflicted with the virus are mostly drug addicts). But this liberal, well-intentioned, approach sometimes results in uninventive writing and dialogues that function as instructive sermons.

In its best moments, Bones resembles Paul Mazursky’s realistic “slice of life” comedies, but in its weakest, it’s a morality tale with an overtly “messagey” agenda. Still, acquitting himself better as helmer than scripter, Chery’s direction is always vibrant and fluent, showing a particular facility in establishing the right tonality for each and every scene of his film.

It helps that the two leading actors, Terrence Riggins and Devika Parikh, are extremely attractive, appealing, and sympathetic. Thomas E. Oetzell’s camera is informal and unobtrusive; even the occasional interludes of tedium are nicely photographed.

Credits

AIDS drama 16mm color
Running time: 62 minutes

A Chery’s Filmworks production. Produced, directed, written, edited by Yves Chery. Co-producer, Brenda Westbrooke. Camera (color), Thomas E. Oetzell; music, Jacques Richmond, Chris Monroe, Anthony Jefferson; production design, Lisa Linden. (In AFI/L.A. FilmFest 1993).

Cast

Bello…..Terence Riggins
Simbi…….Devika Parikh
Wendell….Reginald Hobbs
Renee……….Vicky Rise
Doctor….David G. Thomas