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Review: Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis highlight powerful drama ‘1985'

Aidan Langford, from left, Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis. Wolfe Releasing
(From right) Michael Chiklis, Virginia Madsen, Cory Michael Smith and Aidan Langford in the family drama “1985.”
(Wolfe Releasing)

“1985” is a beautiful and poignant piece set during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. This profoundly resonant, smartly understated black-and-white film greatly benefits from more than 30 years worth of sociosexual perspective that reminds us how much has changed, yet how much else has not.

The excellent Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma/The Riddler on TV’s “Gotham”) plays Adrian, the golden boy son of working-class Texans Dale (Michael Chiklis) and Eileen (Virginia Madsen).

When Adrian returns home at Christmastime in 1985, years after escaping his native Fort Worth for the freedoms of New York City, he finds himself long past the person he once was but still struggling to be truthful with his conservative parents and preteen brother, Andrew (Aidan Langford), about his sexuality, his career and, most critically, his failing health. The pain of his secrets is palpable.

How Adrian navigates his brief stay, which includes a knotty reunion with estranged childhood friend Carly (Jamie Chung) and some lovingly orchestrated big-bro support for the needy Andrew, is handled with fine sensitivity and insight by director Yen Tan (2013’s “Pit Stop”), who also scripted from his and co-editor/cinematographer Hutch’s story. Period trappings are evocative but never overdone.

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Chiklis is first-rate as Adrian’s tough, deceptively aware Vietnam-vet father, while Madsen’s gentle, luminous portrayal of a deeply adoring mother is heartbreakingly authentic — and utterly award-worthy.

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‘1985’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

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Playing: Starts Oct. 26, Laemmle Glendale

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