It celebrates a particular relationship and offers a passing glimpse of a particular milieu and some wisdom about ways of coping with death. I wouldn't want to claim that the film is easy to take, but neither are its virtues simply the negative ones of taboo breaking. At its best, it offers a way of looking at the world that concretely suggests--even to some extent requires--rejecting its present moral priorities.
Much in the same way that BPM vivifies the kinetic might of ACT UP—called “the last of the great new social movements of the 20th century” by one of the group’s vets—Silverlake Life makes overwhelmingly powerful a simple act undertaken by two men: to bear witness to their own rapidly decaying bodies. The endeavor stands as a testament not only to their devotion to each other, but to their determination to destigmatize their very existence.
Throughout, Massi and Joslin grapple with the burden of their failing bodies and fraying relationships with their families, with Joslin especially displacing his anger at the disease with a sense of humor that feels totemic in its resistance. Joslin, a filmmaker who once taught Ken Burns and Rob Epstein, captures his lover’s death in wrenching detail.