REVIEW: Yen Tan’s ‘1985’ is a poignant AIDS-era family drama

cory michael smith in yen tan aids drama film 1985
Photo: HutcH

Reminding us at once how far we’ve come in terms of society’s view on sexuality yet that there is still change to be integrated, writer-director Yen Tan’s 1985 is a beautiful, poignant drama set during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

Slow burning, tonally and texturally stunning (the black-and-white palette evokes memories of the classic cinema this film’s subtlety is reminiscent of), and competently acted with organic emotional depth, 1985 tells the story of Adrian (Corey Michael Smith), an advertising executive returning to his small Texan hometown for Christmas after 3 years.

Having left as soon as he was able to, there’s an evident disconnect between himself and his parents, Dale (Michael Chiklis) and Eileen (Virginia Madsen).

Dale is unable to find the correct manner in how to communicate with him, and Eileen is hoping he’ll start a relationship of sorts with his childhood girlfriend (Jamie Chung).

Whilst Adrian has long transformed from the person he once was, there’s a struggle with his identity regarding telling his family; that of his career, his sexuality, and his failing health (he’s HIV positive).

Despite the film’s era setting (1985, appropriately enough), the cultural and political effects present throughout the story are those that still resonate today.

This only fuels how strong a reaction one will have to this haunting tale.

A quiet, heartbreaking film that never overdoes the melodramatic trappings of its story, 1985 is delicately told and a lovingly orchestrated view on a subject that still deserves a global highlight.

1985 is in select Australian cinemas from April 25, including Dendy Cinemas in Coorparoo, Brisbane. Watch the trailer below:

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