Review - 'I Hugged The Berlin Patient' by Edgar Tang

The first man cured of HIV had walked out of the operating theatre alive and there is no stopping for a spritely young Singaporean, Edgar Tang, to find the one and only, Timothy Ray Brown. Edgar dreams to meet his American “idol” in person so badly that he decide to take a leap of faith and buy a ticket to the Berlin, where Timothy previously lived.

With limited information and clues in hand, Edgar remains determined and establishes connections with new friends he meet in the city. Despite the struggles at the start, he soon finds his way to meet Timothy's old friend, Christina, and Timothy's doctor who cured him using the stem cell transplant, Gero Hutter. However, his strongest connections do not lead him to Timothy immediately.

His luck takes a turn when he discovers that Timothy will be speaking at an event in Amsterdam. Edgar quickly contacts the conference manager but finds out that he has to work around the no-camera and privacy issues at the event venue. Surprisingly, the conference manager obliges to grant backstage interview and that means, he will finally be able to converse face-to-face with Timothy.

With chanceful glimpses of Timothy in the hotel prior to the interview, the big day arrives. Edgar is beyond ecstatic but remains his composure and charm during their conversations at the restaurant and outside. They share moments of insight and discovery which certainly helps Edgar to understand the true man behind the 'Berlin patient' headlines.

The film portrays an honest and earnest depiction of Edgar's curious quest to find Timothy and put his unique case in a bigger spotlight. The story itself is special but its ending comes off as predictable, with title of film being a big giveaway. Ultimately, everyone loves a happy ending so, it is a win-win. One scene with Edgar going to the hospital to check on his flat foot appears trivial but it does enforce his point on doctor-patient relationship being impersonal and intimate at the same time.

Some parts in the conversation between Edgar and Timothy are a little dry, but good enough to keep audience peeled to the end. Edgar tries to splice a fictitious feature as an analogy on HIV as an unsuspected “serial killer” showing a romantic couple wining and dining but ended with a brutal murder. This was confusing at first, with extended frames that make audience go what-has-this-got-to-do-with-the-quest, but able to piece the message eventually.

Audience will be taken by Edgar's quirky and child like nature in the film. His search for Timothy resembles his personal journey in seeking hope and, indeed, hope finds him in the least expected way.

Review by Haswani
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