dir-scr Yen Tan
prd Ash Christian, Hutch
with Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis, Jamie Chung, Aidan Langford, Ryan Piers Williams, Antonio Drake, Bryan Massey, Michael Darby, Niko Trusko, Chris Gardner, Tina Parker
release US 26.Oct.18
18/US 1h26
In the club: Smith

madsen chiklis chung
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
1985 Shot in grainy black and white, this introspective drama centres on a young man struggling to be honest about his sexuality. The film is earthy and real, with open performances that continually dig beneath the surface to quietly reveal the characters' thoughts and feelings, both good and bad. Even as it's grounded with real-life humour, this is a deeply important film that plays like a yearning cry to cut through the silence and piety.

After three years in New York, advertising exec Adrian (Smith) is home in Texas for Christmas to visit his deeply religious parents Eileen and Dale (Madsen and Chiklis) and teen brother Andrew (Langford). There's tension in the air, as Eileen and Dale don't ask about Adrian's life, while Andrew is bristling at his parents controlling ways. But something is eating away at Adrian, a deep grief he is hiding from his family. Meanwhile, he's able to reconnect with his old friend Carly (Chung), a stand-up comic who pulls no punches with him.

Director Tan gently observes Adrian's interaction with everyone around him, building the story through conversations. Scenes with his parents rumble with the unspoken things between them; they clearly know he's gay but can't accept that openly. With Andrew and Carly, Adrian can be more open about this repressive subculture, even if he continues to conceal the most important things about himself. There are also old classmates like Marc (Williams), as annoying now as he was when they were kids.

Performances are loose and naturalistic, as the gifted cast makes the most of offhanded dialog that reveals feelings without ever being obvious about it. Smith is instantly likeable, especially as Adrian so quickly feels walled in by his conservative parents and the eyes of this community. His entire body visibly relaxes on a night out with Chung's hilariously outspoken close friend, who turns rivetingly serious when she confronts him about their shifting relationship. Madsen and Chiklis are terrific in the most pointed, difficult roles.

When the truth finally tumbles out, it's a surge of anguish. This young man is bottling up the strongest thoughts and feelings imaginable, and he can't share them with the people closest to him. When he finally does tell someone, the things he's saying are powerfully moving. His parents do love him, even if they are unable to do so unconditionally, so the reality is that they are abandoning him when he needs them most. The script never forces this point, but it comes through loud and clear.

cert 15 themes, language 25.Oct.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall