Advertising executive Adrian (Corey Michael Smith, Gotham, Carol) returns to his childhood home in small town Texas for the first time in three years. Having left home as soon as he was able to, Adrian finds himself distanced from his conservative parents. Dale (Michael Chiklis), Adrian’s deeply repressed father, is uncertain how to communicate with his adult son, while his mother, Eileen (Virginia Madsen), hopes he will finally start a relationship with his long-time female childhood friend Carly (Jamie Chung).
Adrian’s strongest family bond is with younger brother Andrew (Aidan Langford), who has clearly missed his elder brother’s presence. Still a teenage student, Andrew is forced to live under the fundamentalist Christian values of his parents, he sneaks Madonna cassettes into his Walkman, listening to pop music against the religious advice of the family’s pastor. Unbeknown to everybody Adrian is living with two secrets; he is gay and is HIV positive.
Set in the early years of the AIDS crisis, when people living with HIV frequently faced stigma and some found themselves ostracised by their families, 1985 captures something of the tragedy and pain of the era, the politics and cultural effect of which are still felt today.
This powerful, moving drama is beautifully shot on 16mm black and white film, and thanks to its careful use of tone and texture, as well as long, slow takes, it allows the protagonists’ actions to unfold on the screen with a sense of genuine poignance. The cast deliver strong performances which lends a depth to the work.
In some respects, the black and white style plays to a different era of cinema, where stories unfold with a natural pace, but the film is not simply indie-cinema nostalgia, and the cinematography, alongside the minimal score, evoke a simple and direct form of communication. Deeply moving, 1985 is a film with a quiet effective power.