Now Streaming in Austin: 1985
Yen Tan's AIDS drama is about people drama, not a disease
By Richard Whittaker,
9:00AM, Mon. Jun. 8, 2020
Welcome to Now Streaming in Austin, highlighting locally made titles to watch while self-quarantining.
For decades, AIDS cast a shadow over the LGBTQ+ community - so much so that a disease was allowed to define a vast number of people. Yen Tan's incredible queer drama 1985 took its power away by taking away its name.
The period drama, which debuted locally at SXSW 2018, is an AIDS story that never says the word, even if its shadow hangs long over the story. But then, the word gay is never said either, because Tan grasps what the time - the mid-80s - and the place - suburban Dallas - meant. So does Adrian (Gotham star Cory Michael Smith), who has come to see his parents (Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis) after three years away. The dynamic is in what's unspoken: the words, the relationships, the realities that everyone knows but that no one mentions.
In adapting his 2016 short of the same name, long time Austin film scene mainstay Tan both retains all the context, and removes all the preconceived notions of what this story should be. By taking away the words AIDS and HIV, he makes the audience make the same jumps as Adrian's family, while also stripping away the baggage and revealing a family in crisis. As Matthew Monagle explained in his review, "Buried beneath Adrian’s calm exterior is a world of grief and confusion, and spending time with his loved ones – no matter how much they may struggle to understand each other – may be more important now than ever before."