The 1980s was a remarkable decade in many ways. It was arguably the last great decade for cinema and one of the most interesting musically. Then there’s there was the fashion….Whilst it was an era characterised by vibrant colours and youthful exuberance it also remained a profoundly conservative time for most of America.
Given the huge medical breakthroughs in the developed world it’s easy to forget that AIDS was once a death sentence (and sadly still is in large parts of the world). One of the major contributing factors to treatment taking so long to arrive was the stigma surrounding it. Being gay in America was still considered shameful by many and was often hidden. Children moved away from their families in order to live their lives openly; their sexuality became a barrier. This is the subject of Yen Tan’s new film 1985.
Adrian Lester (Cory Michael Smith) couldn’t wait to leave his home in Texas and escape to New York. Aware he’s dying from AIDS; the prodigal son returns to his family for the first Christmas in years. He’s welcomed with open arms by his fawning mother (Virginia Madsen) but his father (Michael Chiklis) is much more reticent. His younger brother (Aidan Langford) still harbours feelings of abandonment whilst his high school sweetheart (Jamie Chung) is the only person he can talk to.
Shot in grainy monochrome, Tan’s film feels undeniably authentic in its depiction of the era and the position Adrian finds himself in. Coming from a conservative Texan family during the Reagan era he has few outlets for his anguish in the South. However, it’s clear that there’s more to the Lesters than first meets the eye and they may not be so in the dark or unsupportive as he assumed. 1985 is a powerful and immaculately-made period drama about someone struggling to confront his biggest fear.
1985 is released in cinemas on 20 December.