Today, at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in Austin, the world will get its first glimpse at the AIDS-themed drama 1985, the latest movie from director Yen Tan (Pit Stop), which stars Oscar winner Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Emmy winner Michael Chiklis (The Shield), and rising talent Cory Michael Smith (TV's Gotham). While many films about HIV/AIDS strive to cover the widespread effect of the disease, 1985—named for the year in which it's set—narrows its focus, centering on Adrian, a closeted gay New Yorker who, at Christmas, travels to his Texas hometown to face his mother (Madsen), father (Chiklis), and sensitive younger brother (Aidan Langford).
1985, which screened in advance for select members of the New York media last week, is very much a tale about one person, who, while struggling to survive in the epicenter of a community-ravaging plague, is keeping multiple painful secrets from his family and his best friend (Jamie Chung). And yet, it could also be the story of thousands of men and women who had to endure Adrian's same hurdles when AIDS was at its peak—watching their friends die around them, and perhaps dying themselves, while attempting to maintain normalcy among loved ones who become outsiders.
Tan, who was present for the advance New York screening, said that he and Hutch, his creative partner and cinematographer, opted to shoot the movie in black and white “to avoid the stereotypical trappings and distractions of a 1980s aesthetic, and keep the focus on the characters.” The efforts pay off, and 1985 breaks your heart in the precise way it sets out to. The film will be seeking well-deserved studio acquisition during its run at SXSW.
For screenings and showtimes, visit www.SXSW.com.