I finally got to attend Harvey Milk’s memorial.

When he and George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White in November 1978, I couldn’t attend their funerals because I was too busy on deadline editing a special section of the San Francisco Examiner for our coverage of the tragedy a week before, Jonestown. I always regretted not saying goodbye. Tonight I plan to spend a few hours digging through boxes in the basement to find columns I wrote about Harvey and notes he sent in return. The movie brought back a rush of memories from those extraordinary days, and a terrible sadness.

Sean Penn does an incredible job capturing Milk’s intensity, humor, joy, and decency. It is a great performance. And the movie captures the time and the city’s politics perfectly. I understand why, but I wish it focused less on White, though it does portray him as what he was: the oddity. It’s also odd to me that there was no reference to the gash in the city’s psyche that came only nine days before, Jonestown. But that, too, I understand. What Milk does brilliantly is portray the moment and the movement in intimate human terms, not with soaring music, not with gay cliches, not with PC delicacies but with emotion and reality. I recommend it highly.