"an intimate portrayal of the personal effects of a global pandemic that was at odds with the traditional values of the time"
Shot in black and white and on 16 mm, 1985 is a subtle yet affecting look at the Aids outbreak of the 1980’s. Based on director Yen Tan’s short, it tells the story of Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) who returns home to his all-American, Texan family for Christmas. His hard-nosed, strict father (Michael Chiklis), a Vietnam veteran, clearly rules the roost in a home where religion is ever-present and to vote anything other than Republican is considered shameful.
It’s clear that Adrian is somewhat at odds with this environment and his desire to get away a necessity to be true to himself. Quite why is not initially made clear, but Tan allows the audience to draw the necessary conclusions from what is not being said.
The script’s initial set-up is somewhat slow and drawn out, the nature is a hangover from its short origins, but several strands are fed from Adrian’s past through his present and into his future. There’s his younger brother Andrew (Aidan Langford) whom could well be heading down the same path and has a clouded judgement of himself, his mother (Virginia Madsen) who may well know what is going on but could be in denial, his estranged girlfriend Carly (Jamie Chung) who becomes the one person he can openly speak with and the aforementioned father who, in one elongated take in the family garden, demonstrates a love for his son but equally a strong power over him that is the probable root cause of his repression.
This makes just five speaking parts and even with additional supporting roles, the cast list doesn’t get into double figures, but then that is the point. What is going on in the wider world is suggested by Adrian late on and this is an intimate portrayal of the personal effects of a global pandemic that was at odds with the traditional values of the time, leading to much heartache.