Metro Weekly

Three Months review: Troye Sivan fails to rise to the material in HIV drama

Troye Sivan stars in a self-conscious queer coming-of-age story wrapped in a disjointed health scare drama.

Three Months
Sivan in Three Months

Some gay boys and their grandmas share a special bond. It’s a fact of life for many queer teens fortunate enough to receive the love and respect of the Golden Girls in their lives. And it’s a fact of several recent films, from last year’s Jump, Darling, starring a fabulous Cloris Leachman in one of her final film roles, to the sexy-cute 2018 Dutch rom-com Just Friends, and now Jared Frieder’s so-so new dramedy Three Months (★★☆☆☆).

Besides exploring and/or exploiting that cross-generational conduit of support and affection, Three Months, like Darling, offers a seemingly juicy role to an Oscar-winning screen legend. In this case, Ellen Burstyn lends a touch of gravitas portraying loving grandma Valerie to gay south Florida high schooler Caleb, played with deadpan snark and sometimes seething anger by pop star Troye Sivan.

Caleb’s open and honest relationship with Val is just one of the pillars of support he leans on during the crisis hinted at in the film’s title. Recently exposed to HIV during an accidentally unsafe sexual encounter, Caleb is told by Dr. Diaz (Javier Muñoz) that it’ll take three months of negative test results to definitively confirm that he hasn’t contracted the virus. The stage is thus set for Caleb’s summer of anxiety and suspense, as he awaits his results, weighs his options for life after graduation, and unexpectedly falls for Estha (Viveik Kalra), a semi-closeted teen experiencing his own major crisis.

Set in 2011, for no reason that discernibly impacts the story, the film relays through Caleb’s tale a message as important then as it is now, that testing positive for HIV no longer confers a death sentence. As Caleb learns from Dr. Diaz and members of the doc’s queer issues support group, current meds and treatment offer HIV-positive individuals the possibility to lead long, productive, otherwise healthy lives.

Caleb still must process his fear of testing positive, although the film invests more concern in his fear of screwing up the romance with Estha. Their summer fling plays out fairly predictably, skipping along via music-filled dating montages and heart-to-heart talks while riding around on the tandem bike that Caleb usually rides alone.

Three Months
Sivan and Tju in Three Months

The frequent sight of Caleb pedaling his two-rider all by his lonesome represents the sort of indie quirk that writer-director Frieder aims for often, most notably with the script’s self-consciously acerbic dialogue. Landing somewhere on the snarky teen spectrum between Heathers and a Nickelodeon sitcom — even Caleb’s ringtone sasses, “Look at your phone, bitch!” — the repartee rarely sounds natural enough in Sivan’s delivery to be as biting or as funny as it wants to be.

The South African-Australian performer, who gave a tender supporting performance in the 2018 queer conversion therapy drama Boy Erased, starts out at a 10 on the sassy queen scale and leaves himself nowhere to build from there, until Caleb is exploding in exasperation at strangers on a drawbridge.

Brianne Tju, as Caleb’s lesbian bestie Dara, fares better with the smart-ass verbiage and with modulating the tone of her performance. Unfortunately, her character is written into a corner with a go-nowhere subplot about fooling around with the manager at the convenience store where she and Caleb work.

Certified scene-stealer Judy Greer is wasted in the store manager role, just as Burstyn, though tough and fiery in a few late scenes, has disappointingly little to do that advances the story. The Caleb-Val relationship is key, but, ultimately, his rapport with her late-in-life companion Benny, played by another Oscar-winner, Louis Gossett, Jr., turns out to be more integral to the film’s wan resolution.

Somewhat perfunctorily, Frieder wraps up every plot thread with a scant sense of urgency, hastily reconciling a falling-out that only occurred offscreen, and depicting the final legs of Caleb’s three-month journey in a montage of photos over the closing credits. Newcomer Kalra’s nuanced, unaffected performance as Estha cuts through the cloying quirkiness, but in a sense, he’s pedaling that bike without a partner.

Three Months is available for streaming exclusively on Paramount+. Visit

Three Months
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