Dallas Buyers Club - reviews of Oscar-nominated Aids drama

Feb 7, 2014

Matthew McConaughey is a 'riveting' if unlikely hero in this absorbing docudrama about the Aids epidemic

What you need to know

A new drama about the early days of the Aids epidemic in the US, Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey, opens in UK cinemas today. The film has been widely praised by critics and is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor for McConaughey's performance.

It tells the story of real-life Texan Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a hard-drinking, promiscuous but straight cowboy, who was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live in the early days of the Aids epidemic. Rejected by his old friends and facing death, he decides to pursue alternative treatments on the black market and distribute the drugs among other sufferers.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Young Victoria) it co-stars Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto.

What the critics like

"Get this - Matthew McConaughey is currently the most exciting acting talent at work in movies," says Ian Nathan in Empire. He has turned the notion of the victim narrative inside out with a wholly convincing portrayal of a bitter but unbreakable spirit in this feelgood-feelbad movie.

McConaughey gives a "full-throttle" performance "unlike anything we've seen him do before", says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. There's also hidden depth in the supporting cast, making this blend of biting character study and campaigning pharmaceutical docudrama zesty and memorable.

What could have been a downbeat drama is deftly handled by director Jean-Marc Vallee in "an absorbing, even entertaining film", says Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. McConaughey is riveting to watch in this accomplished and irresistible film, which doesn't trivialise its issues or preach simplistic politics.

 What they don't like

"What is largely missing, though, is the sense that Ron's efforts are part of a larger movement," says AO Scott in the New York Times. Ron's bravery and determination are entirely credible, thanks to McConaughey's performance, but his actions seem to unfold a vacuum, ignoring a painful and fascinating history, to play it safe.

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