Adapting his short film of the same name, Yen Tan’s 1985 is an intimated drama that explores the crushing sense of loneliness that often comes with illness. After living in New York City for three years Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his home in For Worth, Texas to spend Christmas with his family. Growing up in the Bible Belt, Adrian has not yet told his parents (Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis) or his younger brother Andrew (Aidan Langford) that he is gay.
What they also do not know is that Adrian is dying and does not know how long he has to live.
Despite his façade of living a successful life in New York City, Adrian’s life is in shambles. He is not only struggling to get by on a waiter’s salary, but he has had to watch several of his friends, including the love of his life, die in the past year.
1985 starts off as a familiar coming out tale but evolves into a nuanced exploration of family and love. Tan’s subtlety effectively expose the emotional pain simmering within all the characters. There are no moments that ring hollow, no epic speeches added for cinematic impact. Instead Tan lets his scenes breath, building the drama slowly to ensure that the narrative never quite goes where one expects it to.
Tan achieves this through strong performances by the entire cast. Cory Michael Smith is wonderful as the conflicted Adrian. He brings just the right mixture of melancholy, fear and heart needed for the role. Chiklis, Madsen, and Jamie Chung, who plays Adrian’s childhood friend, all bring a rich nuance to their supporting roles.
1985 is an effective and delicate glimpse into the emotional toll brought on by the first wave of the AIDS crisis.
Friday, May 25, 9:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox