1985

Directed by Yen Tan

Cast: Cory Michael Smith, Jamie Chung, Michael Chiklis, Virginia Madsen

Official Selection, 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival
Best Screenwriting, 2018 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival

For at least a decade, Malaysian-born, Texas-based director Yen Tan (Pit Stop, Ciao) has quietly made a catalog of acclaimed films worth watching – incisive and tender portraits of romance, memory, and sexuality. With 1985, Tan returns with an all-star Hollywood cast set during a gut wrenching era that has all but faded from cinematic memory – the veritable death sentence of a new epidemic called AIDS.

Rather than look at the breadth of this turbulent time, Tan takes on the depth of the personal as Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) pays a holiday visit to his conservative family in a small Texas town, possibly for the last time. Unable to share his dire diagnosis, Adrian’s all consuming situation is placed on painful mute for his conservative Texas family – an angelic mother (a glowing Virginia Madsen) intuitively on the verge of tears, a hypermasculine stepfather (Michael Chiklis) who destroys his son’s overly “secular” Madonna cassettes, and a younger brother hungry for the escape and allyship Adrian provides. Jamie Chung is great as Carly, a best friend and former girlfriend, still hurt from being abandoned without explanation, and the only person Adrian can confide in.

Details of the time percolate in felt moments – luggage without wheels, Dolby Walkmans, smoking in public with abandon, the rise of stand up comedy clubs – but 1985 is taut with the real pain and emotional stakes of Adrian’s marooned inner life, oceans away from his family.

Sparely rendered but bursting with the interiority of Moonlight, 1985 immerses with the 16mm black and white veneer of classic family drama. Towards the film’s end, Adrian surprises with hope in the face of hopelessness, in a profoundly generous move that leaves audiences questioning our own capacity for grace.

– Christina Ree

Co-Presented by: Film Out San Diego

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