★★★★★ | 1985
The year is 1985. AIDS had already started to rear its ugly head. It’s also the year that Adrian comes home for perhaps the last time.
1985 is a tear-your-heart-out film about one New Yorker’s journey back home to see his family at Christmas. Cory Michael Smith is just incredible as Adrian, a young man going back home to Texas after a three-year absence to see his father, mother and little brother. But it’s really not a festive time for him – for all the lies and deceits that Adrian tells his family – that his life in New York is just amazing, with a good job and great friends, all this couldn’t be further from the truth. Adrian’s friends back in NYC are all dying or dead – including his partner. Adrian has been to six funerals in that year alone, and he faces the grim fact that he is not immune to the disease that has slowly crept up on gay men like himself. With a doting mother who takes care of all his needs while he is at home (a graceful and saintly Virginia Madsen), a tough religious father who lives his life by the Bible (Michael Chiklis), and a soft younger brother who is into theatre (Aidan Langford), it’s up to Adrian to secretly say goodbye to everyone (including his best friend Carly, played by the wonderful Jamie Chung).
Directed and co-written by Yen Tan, 1985 is a small film that packs quite a punch. It’s one hour and 25 minutes that will hold your attention throughout, with gripping performances, and an equally stunning soundtrack, and will have you reaching for the tissue box many times. Reminiscent of Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World (where a terminally ill writer (assumed sick with AIDS) returns home to tell his family he is dying), 1985 is a much much better film.
With a perfect cast, including Madsen who is just simply amazing, as well as Chung, 1985 is a great film in every sense of the word, and excellently captures that time in 1985 when President Ronald Regan had yet to utter the word ‘AIDS’ and when hundreds of young men were dying and there was no treatment available, nothing could be done for them. Tan, along with the cast and crew, in a film beautifully shot in black and white (by Hutch, who also co-wrote the film), has pulled off quite an achievement with this film. Every gay man under 50 really needs to watch this film to understand what gay men over 50 were dealing with in the 1980s and early 1990s.
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Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.