Friday, October 26, 2018

Movie with Abe: 1985

Directed by Yen Tan
Released October 26, 2018

Leaving a strict home mandated by many rules can result in the opening up of entirely new possibilities in a less restrictive environment. Forging a more fulfilling lifestyle becomes difficult when the thought of returning home reintroduces stifling elements and threatens to undo any emotional progress made in the time spent away. Regardless of how uncomfortable or problematic seeing a person’s family can be, there still exists a bond between those who share blood, and staying apart forever is usually not a realistic option.

Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns home for the first time in a few years, leaving the exciting world in which he lives openly as a gay man behind to spend Christmas in his very religious, conservative hometown. His mother Eileen (Virginia Madsen) is overjoyed to see him, welcoming him home with open arms. His younger brother Andrew (Aidan Langford) looks up to him and appreciates how he opens him up to a bigger world than he’s known. Adrian struggles to connect with his disapproving father, Dale (Michael Chiklis), who barely looks at him even without knowing about his sexual identity, and finds it difficult even to open up to his former girlfriend Carly (Jamie Chung).

This film presents its events in black-and-white, mirroring the feeling Adrian experiences coming back to the place he grew up. His interactions with his father are particularly grim, since his casual remarks about his brother’s softness sting even more because he has never actually taken any time to really get to know his older son. His every success is doubted by his father, and the only path to any sort of acceptance is to dive fully into the religion that has clearly had a large part in driving Adrian away.

Smith, a relative newcomer, impresses as Adrian, conveying a lifetime of hurt and disappointment that bubbles right back to the top as soon as his father greets him at the airport. Chiklis, usually known for more sympathetic roles, and Madsen play well off each other to create polar opposite parents, whose treatment of their sons shapes their life choices. Langford is a great find, and it’s wonderful to see Chung, who stars in a less rewarding part on “The Gifted,” in a standout turn as a facet of Adrian’s oppressive childhood who doesn’t judge him at all for anything he’s done aside from not be honest with her. This film is a solid look at a young man trying to negotiate his different identities and to discover whether he truly can be himself in a place – and a time – that’s not ready for him.


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