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Stuart Richards Wednesday, 24 April 2019
Published in ABR Arts

At the 2019 Melbourne Queer Film Festival, a friend and I were discussing the work of the Texan-based, Malaysian-born filmmaker Yen Tan. Having just seen his latest film, 1985, I was struck by the subtle power of the film. Aesthetically, it might have been made in 1985. As with all his films, there is a non-sensationalist sadness that gradually builds. His two most recent films to tour the queer film festival circuit were Ciao (2008) and Pit Stop (2013). These films deal with the melancholic loss people feel at the end of a relationship, be it through death or break up.

In 1985, Adrian Lester (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his small Texan hometown after living in New York City for several years as a successful advertising executive. His ultra-religious father, Dale (Michael Chiklis), dominates the household, while his endearing mother, Eileen (Virginia Madsen), fawns over Adrian. The family exudes fear that they might lose their son to a disease they don’t really understand. Adrian’s much younger brother, Andrew (Aidan Langford), is angry at him for abandoning him. Andrew seems like a junior version of Adrian: effeminate and just as uncomfortable in the house. Their father destroys his Madonna record collection because of the local church’s war on ‘sinful’ pop music. Adrian manages to bond with Andrew over music, steering his younger brother towards The Cure. Adrian’s childhood friend Carly (Jamie Chung), another figure from his past, long estranged, is also in town. Eileen is excited at the prospect of their reunion.

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Published in ABR Arts
Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards lectures in Screen Studies in the School of Creative Industries at the University of South Australia. His first monograph The Queer Film Festival: Politics and Popcorn is published as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s ‘Framing Film Festivals’ series. He has previously worked with both the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and The San Francisco Frameline International LGBTQ Film Festival. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association.

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