25 to Life
Film Review by Kam Williams
Out-of-the-Closet Documentary Chronicles Clandestine Life of Brother Hiding His HIV Status
When William Brawner was 18 months-old, his single-mom Linda left him in the care of a suspicious male babysitter against her better judgment while she went off to class at Howard University. Upon returning home, she found her baby so scalded by hot water that he needed numerous skin grafts and blood transfusions.
Doctor’s didn’t buy the babysitter’s story that it was all the result of an accident. And the proof in the pudding rested in the fact that the creep quickly slipped out of town before subsequently disappearing from the radar entirely.
Unfortunately for William, this tragedy transpired in the early Eighties at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, well before the medical community became aware of how to protect the country’s tainted blood supply. Consequently, he contracted HIV from one of his transfusions.
Because of the social stigma then associated with AIDS, his mother decided to studiously hide Bill’s positive HIV status over the course of his childhood. Furthermore, since the guilty woman had no idea how long he might live, she also proceeded to spoil him rotten, admittedly raising a monster the rest of the world was going to have to deal with.
For, Bill eventually blossomed into quite the handsome ladies’ man. And while he did inform his high school sweetheart, Natasha, that he was infected, he never told any of the 20+ classmates he slept with when he followed in his mother’s footsteps to Howard.
He even had unprotected sex with some of those sisters, and was almost outed by his angry ex-girlfriend who sent an anonymous letter to the President of the University, warning, “Bill Brawner is HIV+ and infecting everyone at your school.” But the roaming Romeo’s culpable response was to never again share his status with anyone, though he would remain promiscuous.
Finally, in 2006, William confessed to his shameless behavior by going on the radio to reveal to the world once and for all that he was HIV+. In addition, he founded a Haven Youth center, a healthcare facility offering infected teens treatment and counseling.
Directed by Mike Brown, 25 to Life is reverential biopic that revisits all of the above, opting to present Bill in a positive light despite his risky behavior with a string of sex partners. Granted, it’s great that he ultimately embraced honesty and even settled down and got married, but it would’ve been nice to hear from his former conquests to learn how they felt about being used and whether they’ve tested positive for the AIDS virus.
A cautionary tale about a charming predator’s penis dispensing potentially-lethal demon seed.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: SimonSays Entertainment