1985 review – stylish and heartbreaking | Film

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“I really just want to hang out,” Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) tells his former high-school girlfriend Carly (Jamie Chung). On its own, the phrase is innocuous enough but here, the delivery is so loaded it made this critic cry. There are a lot of moments like this, heartbreaking instances in which confrontation is teased then sadly sublimated, in this touching, lo-fi gay drama. Set against the backdrop of Reagan’s America, the Aids epidemic looms large over the film, though it is never mentioned by name.

Suppression is simply a means of survival for closeted Adrian, who is home for the holidays for the first time in three years, having escaped his conservative home town of Fort Worth, Texas, for New York. Here, members of the church burn “secular” pop records, dads tear down Bryan Adams posters, and gold-leaf Bibles appear in Christmas stockings.

Malaysian-born writer-director Yen Tan shoots stylishly in black and white 16mm, each frame a tasteful photograph. What’s most skilful, though, is the way he succeeds in complicating archetypes. Carly, for example, is a Korean-American stand-up, whose race drives an additional wedge between Adrian and his Vietnam war-veteran father (Michael Chiklis, proud, fearsome, emasculated but still loving); his devout mother (Virginia Madsen) hides her voting habits from her husband; younger brother Andrew (Aiden Langford) is a pre-teen Madonna fan who might be more like Adrian than he thinks. This is crystallised in the film’s beautifully judged centrepiece, which sees Adrian sharing a reluctant beer with his dad, the camera creeping closer and becoming more intimate as their conversation becomes chillier.

Watch the trailer for 1985.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: 1985 review – stylish and heartbreaking | Film

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