Watch 1985

"In another time, at another place…"
  • 2018
  • 1 hr 25 min
  • 7.2  (2,496)
  • 71

In the movie 1985, directed and written by Yen Tan, we follow the story of Adrian (Cory Michael Smith), a young man who returns to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas for Christmas in 1985. This is not just any Christmas for Adrian, however, as he is returning home to confront his conservative family with the truth about his sexuality and his HIV-positive status.

The movie presents a poignant and contemplative look at the lives of those who survived the initial AIDS epidemic when the virus was still poorly understood and largely untreatable. Adrian is struggling to come to terms with his diagnosis and with the knowledge that he might not live much longer. His parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis, are not particularly interested in hearing about his life in New York City, his art, or his boyfriend Miguel (Jamie Chung). Instead, they are preoccupied with conforming to societal expectations, particularly their religious beliefs.

As Adrian searches for a way to connect with his family and reconcile with his past, we are taken on a journey that reveals the depth of the characters’ struggles and concerns with a generous and sensitive hand. It is a moving portrayal of a family wrestling with the acceptance of their son’s true identity at a time when to have HIV/AIDS was almost akin to a death sentence.

The movie is shot in black and white, beautifully framing the tender moments of Adrian’s visit home. The first image we see is Adrian sitting on a plane, staring out at the world. We are given no clear indication of his destination or his purpose, except the context of the year. In his hometown, we are immediately made to witness the cultural divides and subtle judgments of those around him, the film serves as a reminder of the need for compassion and empathy even in the midst of misunderstanding.

As Adrian navigates his way through the family's Christmas celebrations, old memories and tensions are brought to the surface. A box of old family photographs triggers Adrian's reflections on the funeral of his younger brother, who died of a terminal illness in his teens. This added a reminder of the fragile nature of life and the inevitability of death that imbues every encounter with an intense impermanence.

The most poignant storyline in the movie concerns Adrian's relationship with his father, Dale. He is a brawny, conservative man, genuinely loving but almost unequalled in his ability to be terrible at expressing it. Dale, unlike the rest of the family, is ready to face what his son is going through and make an effort to understand him. The two share a touching moment where Dale offers to assist Adrian's artwork and connect over a beer. It is a pivotal moment in their relationship and sets the stage for the movie's climax.

While the film offers a sobering portrayal of the toll inflicted on those battling the disease, Tan’s work also offers a sense of hope as well. There is a love that transcends the boundaries of life and death, of fear and prejudice; it is a love that is all-encompassing and infinitely more significant than mere words. It is the kind of love that pulses through every moment of this film, in the way that Cory Michael Smith plays his role with restraint and empathy, the way that the script is honest and unforgiving, and the way that in this quiet, authentically-human movie, you can feel the filmmakers’ deep respect and admiration for those who have fought so hard against unimaginable adversaries.

1985 is a reverential tribute to one of the most liberal and turbulent eras and a profound character study of a family on the verge of collapse. It's a raw and vulnerable movie filled with intimate moments, and intense feelings of love and loss. For any individual who grew up in a religious or rural area, struggling with sexual identity, or fighting against HIV and AIDS, the movie reflects the universal experiences of isolation, sorrow, and resolution across social and cultural lines. It's a movie that in retrospect, gives a voice to those who couldn't say goodbye when everything was falling apart.

1985 is a 2018 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 25 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2 and a MetaScore of 71.

Where to Watch 1985
1985 is available to watch free on Peacock, The Roku Channel Free, Tubi TV and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent 1985 for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 25 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (2,496)
  • Metascore