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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Every Atheist Needs: Angels In America

This is, quite literally, the single most brilliant show I’ve ever seen. It’s more than outstanding, it goes beyond what anyone could describe as great. It transcends what you ever thought television was capable of. The acting, the subject matter, the sets and effects, it simply rises above the medium and shakes you to your core.

Angels in America is an HBO television miniseries that aired in 2003. It was adapted from the play by Tony Kushner. It stars Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise Parker, Patrick Wilson and Justin Kirk.

The series is centred around a gay couple, one of whom is suffering from HIV and AIDS. The topics the series covers with pristine eloquence are many, from homophobia, misogyny, the death penalty and McCarthyism to Judaism, Mormonism, drug abuse and politics.

Al Pacino plays Roy Cohn who’s character is based on the real lawyer, Roy Cohn. The real Mr. Cohn played a huge part in the McCarthyist investigations that put many people away for being a communist, including Ethyl Rosenberg and her husband Julius. In Angels in America, Cohn’s character is visited by the ghost of executed Ethyl Rosenberg as he laying dying from HIV/AIDS. The ghost of Rosenberg is played magnificently by Streep who also has 3 other roles in the series, including a male orthodox Rabbi. She is nothing short of jaw-droppingly brilliant in all 4 roles. Her absolute best endeavour to date.

Justin Kirk plays Prior Walter, who is also dying from HIV/AIDS and his performance will bring you to tears, guaranteed. He’s tormented by an Angel, played by Emma Thompson. She is terrifying, larger than life and fucking incredible.

The story starts with unrelated characters and perfectly draws them in to one another in a breathtaking spiral of heartbreak and injustice and illness and love.

It’s not often words elude me, but when it comes to this miniseries, I simply don’t have words effective enough to describe it. It’s in it’s own category, it’s own genre, it’s own art form.

This series is brutally beautiful and will leave you absolutely raw and there’s no way to shake it when it’s done. You will never shake it.

If you only ever watch one more thing in your lifetime, make it this.

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