Once in a while you see a movie at an LGBTQ film festival and you know that it is destined for greatness. Such is the case with Yen Tan’s “1985” (Wolfe), now available on DVD and VOD.
Like critically acclaimed projects such as the FX series “Pose” and Rebecca Makkai’s novel “The Great Believers”, the mid-1980s are the focus in “1985”.
Young gay man Adrian (queer actor Cory Michael Smith), living and working in Manhattan, returns to his family home in Fort Worth for Christmas. It’s first time home for the holidays since 1982, a point that his macho laborer father Dale (Michael Chiklis) makes a point of mentioning on the drive home from the airport.
At home he is welcomed with loving arms by his mother Eileen (Virginia Madsen), although kid brother Andrew (Aiden Langford) is reserved, still upset over a canceled trip to New York to visit Adrian. This is the kind of family that prays before dinner and listens to Christian radio and worship music. If Adrian didn’t fit in, at least he was of age and could leave. Poor Andrew, who has gone from playing sports to being the vice president of his school’s drama club, is a puzzle to their father, but the light of his mother’s life.
Like a lot of young gay men in the mid-1980s, Adrian is an expert about dancing around the kinds of questions that parents like to ask about girlfriends, their male roommates, employment and finances, health, and the like. To please their parents, they even meet up with hometown ex-girlfriends, as Adrian does with Carly (Jamie Chung). As it turns out, this leads to one of the most emotionally devastating scenes in the movie.
Adrian does as much as he can to provide Andrew with support and guidance as he sees something of himself in him. He also tries to throw his parents off track, because Adrian thinks his parents are clueless; but they are far savvier that he suspects. A backyard conversation with his father and the heart-wrenching tear-jerking moment in the car with his mother prove the opposite.
Like two more of 2018’s best films, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”, “1985” was shot in black and white, which somehow gives the movie even more of a period piece feeling. “1985” is a first-rate tearjerker, so be sure to have tissues handy, especially for the airport goodbye scene with Adrian and Eileen. The supporting cast, including Chung and Chiklis, also deliver riveting performances. DVD bonus features include the original “1985”short film as well as audio commentary by Yen Tan and producer/cinematographer Hutch.