A First-Rate Tearjerker

Director Yen Tan captures the devastating essence of an era.

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O nce 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). 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 his first time home for the holidays since 1982, which his macho laborer father Dale (Michael Chiklis) makes a point of mentioning during the drive home from the airport.

He is welcomed with loving arms by his mother, Eileen (Virginia Madsen), while kid brother Andrew (Aiden Langford) is 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 his father but still the light of his mother’s life.

Like a lot of young gay men in the mid-1980s, Adrian is expert at dancing around the kinds of questions that parents like to ask about girlfriends, male roommates, employment and finances, health, and the like. To please his parents, Adrian even meets up with ex-girlfriend 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. Adrian also tries to throw his parents off track, but they are far savvier than he suspects. A backyard conversation with his father and the heart-wrenching tear-jerking moment in the car with his mother prove the opposite.

Shot in black and white (which 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 his mother. Supporting cast members, including Chung and Chiklis, also deliver.

Just in time for the holidays, 1985 is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. Visit Rating: A 

This article appears in the December 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.


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Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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