1985 (4 stars)

1985

Heartbreaking homecoming drama that deals with the difficulty of coming out to a conservative family

Seasonal movies tend more towards the heartwarming than the heartbreaking. Yen Tan's 1985 is a notable exception. The grainy, black and white, Super 16 cinematography lends a sombre veil to a nuanced, elegantly realised family drama.

Adrian (Cory Michael Smith from TV's Gotham) heads home for the holidays. It is three years since he made the journey from New York to Fort Worth in Texas. The welcome back is tempered by a sense of strain and resentment. Nobody seems able to express what is truly on their minds, especially Adrian. He is a dutiful son, raised by loving parents in a conservative, God-fearing corner of the American heartland. How can he tell them he is gay at the height of the AIDS pandemic hysteria?

There are similarities here with groundbreaking 1980s television movie An Early Frost and the Jean-Luc Lagarce play that inspired Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World. We anticipate the agonising, soul-searching of Adrian over what to say and what to reveal of himself. Even a reunion with sympathetic high school friend Carly (Jamie Chung) is fraught with misunderstandings.

What confounds expectations is the unexpected depths in the other family members. Dad Dale (Michael Chiklis) is a macho, working-class man who is guarded about his feelings but makes some effort to unbend and grasp what might be happening. Mother Eileen (Virginia Madsen) has her secrets and guiltily confides: 'I didn't vote for Reagan last year.'

A possible coming out story blossoms into a more subtle exploration of a family where love exists but discretion is considered essential to spare everyone's feelings. It is the basis of a quietly touching film that becomes both an emotional requiem for a lost generation of gay men and a heartfelt declaration that things could only get better.

Limited release from Thu 20 Dec.

1985

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • USA
  • 1h 25min
  • Directed by: Yen Tan
  • Cast: Bill Heck, Jamie Chung, Virginia Madsen

Adrian (Smith) is a dutiful son of conservative Texan parents (Chiklis, Madsen) who returns for the holidays; how can he tell them he’s gay in the midst of hysteria over AIDS? Nuanced, elegantly realised family drama in which characters have unexpected depths. Heartfelt and quietly touching.

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