Pedro is a movie with the best of intentions, but it rarely lives up to its potential. It tells the story of AIDS activist and The Real World: San Francisco contestant Pedro Zamora, who put a face on the disease for the American public in the early 90s and sadly died just after the MTV series aired. Zamora certainly had an effect, generating a public debate among people who’d never ‘known’ anyone who was HIV positive. It even went as far as the Oval Office, with Bill Clinton having been in contact with Pedro and now providing an introduction for the film on this DVD.
However the movie is encumbered by several narrative obstacles it never overcomes. For a start it knows that the film is mainly going to be of interest to those who remember Pedro from his time on the MTV series, but there’s little point simply recounting events that have already been shown ad nauseam in the US on the reality TV show, so while it covers the main points, the bits of the movie covering his time in the ‘Frisco house are fairly perfunctory and actually a lot less interesting than the actual show was.
Unfortunately the parts of the movie covering his non-Real World life don’t really work either. The problem is that it can’t decide whether it wants to present Zamora as someone genuinely special and unique, or merely show how his story is similar to thousands of other people living with the disease. It makes for an uneven tone and a film that’s doesn’t really seem to know why it exists.
Pedro was written by Dustin Lance Black, who went on to win an Oscar for Milk. In some respects it’s almost like this film was a dry run for the Sean Penn movie, as there are several similarities, such as its gay themes, occasional use of real footage and the basic story of someone who fought for what they believed in, but who eventually died. However rather than Pedro working in its own right, it’s more like Black worked out what did and didn’t work with this movie and then made sure he avoided the traps on Milk.
It’s a shame as this could have been a really good film, but unfortunately it’s just a bit, well, boring.
Overall Verdict: Pedro Zamora’s story is an interesting one, but you wouldn’t know it from this film.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac
(This review previously featured on MovieMuser.co.uk)