Although Canada's THE HANGING GARDEN covered this same territory and remarkbly better, UNDER HEAT is nevertheless a competent family drama. Dean (Erik Swanson) is a young HIV+ man who returns home to tell his widowed mother (Lee Grant)and bitter brother Milo (Robert Knepper), but their problems (her impending exploratory surgery and his attempts to go straight after drug dealing) always intrude on opportune moments. Family secrets are aired, tragedy ensues but the family is left with some hope for the future (David Conrad plays Dean's love interest, Simon in a brief naked love scene). The story is compact, the acting is quite good all around, especially Robert Knepper whose character is mesmerizing and simultaneously repellent and attractive. He is quite unforgettable in the role. The screenplay is full of holes (why did the thrown over girlfriend plant drugs in Milo's truck and turn him in - what did she hope to gain?) and the direction is often annoying (Dean is too flip in most scenes and after a character's death, the widow and children seem totally unaffected by it). But this is overall a well made film - nothing special but as good as anything coming out of the major studios these days.
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