Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Ron Nyswaner
Stars: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell, Buzz Kilman
Runtime: 125 min
Released: 14 Jan 1994
Synopsis: Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer infected with AIDS, is fired from his law firm in fear that they might contract AIDS from him. After Andrew is fired, in a last attempt for peace, he sues his former law firm with the help of a homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller. During the court battle, Miller sees that Beckett is no different than anyone else on the gritty streets of the city of brotherly love, sheds his homophobia and helps Beckett with his case before AIDS overcomes him.
Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia. Although he lives with his partner Miguel Álvarez (Antonio Banderas), Beckett is not open about his homosexuality at the law firm, nor the fact that he has AIDS. On the day he is assigned the firm’s newest and most important case, one of the firm’s partners notices a small lesion on Beckett’s forehead. Shortly thereafter, Beckett stays home from work for several days to try to find a way to hide his lesions. While at home, he finishes the complaint for the case he has been assigned and then brings it to his office, leaving instructions for his assistants to file the complaint in court on the following day, which marks the end of the statute of limitations for the case. Beckett suffers from bowel spasms at home and is rushed to the hospital. Later that morning, while still at the ER, he receives a frantic call from the firm asking for the complaint, as the paper copy cannot be found and there are no copies on the computer’s hard drive. However, the complaint is finally discovered and is filed with the court at the last possible moment. The following day, Beckett is dismissed by the firm’s partners, who had previously referred to him as their “buddy”, but now question his professional abilities in light of the misplaced document. Beckett believes that someone deliberately hid his paperwork to give the firm a pretext to fire him, and that the firing is actually as a result of his diagnosis with AIDS. He asks several attorneys to take his case, including personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), with whom he had been involved in a previous case. Miller, who is admittedly homophobic and knows little about Beckett’s AIDS, initially declines to take the case and immediately visits his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the AIDS through shaking Beckett’s hand. The doctor explains the methods of HIV infection. The doctor then offers to take a sample of Miller’s blood, suspecting that Miller was asking about AIDS because he suspected he had contracted it and was trying to hide it.
Miller visits Beckett in the hospital after the verdict and overcomes his fear enough to touch Beckett’s face. After Beckett’s family leaves the room, he tells Miguel that he is ready to die. A short scene immediately afterward shows Miller getting the word that Beckett has died. The movie ends with a reception at Beckett’s home following the funeral, where many mourners, including the Millers, view home movies of Beckett as a healthy child.