1985-1986 is the next installment in Director Evan Jacobs and his chronicling of Erol Jacobs (I wonder where that name came from...). Similarly to Cool Summer, 1985-1986 is a coming of age story revolving around a young boy developing through adolescence, navigating all the difficulties that come with it. Once more, the rudimentary animation style is just a medium for what I'd say was a captivating series of tales that kept me intrigued about Erol's life from beginning to end. Personally though, I still prefer Cool Summer over this film for having the supernatural, terrifying element of the Ghost Killer. Nevertheless, what exactly does 1985-1986 get right? Let's hop directly into it!
To begin with, for someone who hadn't grown up during the eighties, it seems this movie does a great deal to remain accurate unto the time period its set in, with numerous background references (such as the Atari game system and some of the movies Erol and his friends watch). In media set during a particular era, I really appreciate when they have specific attentions to detail that evoke that particular era to the viewer, even if they didn't necessarily live through it. But whilst the aesthetics and attentions to detail are nice, it's once more the dialogue and story that carry this film.
Rather than contesting with a devilish serial killer taking him through a decaying town, Erol is competing with a far more relatable circumstance, that being moving into a new school where people just seem different. Erol sees many of his friends (such as Brian, Miguel, and Jerry namely) become apparently different people, beginning to hang out with others and relatively ignore his presence or otherwise demean and belittle him openly. Being a recipient of treatment like this from friendgroup circles before, I deeply understood the confusion and tension Erol felt as these people whom he placed trust and genuine emotion into seemed to backstab him. Because of these changes everyone's seemed to undergo throughout the summer, Erol begins feeling a pressure to himself morph into a different person. A thuggish, crude individual to fit in with the demographic of those who went to school with him. I really found it compelling at the movie's beginning, Erol believes the school is divided into the cadres of his friends and he versus the more ruthless gang leaders, before finding out things are more nuanced, and he ultimately becomes friends with many of the individuals he at first feared, such as Eric. There are quite a few lessons this movie enforces, primarily the dangers of peer pressure which seem to deeply affect Erol as he tries to become cool enough for friends to respect him and girls (such as Stacey and Daniela) to notice him. Just like many others at his age, there's a growing friction with his parents and increasing desire to live up to the abstract expectations of what people dub as 'cool and hip'. This culminates with Erol developing some bad habits like smoking, skipping and flunking out of school classes, and almost running away from home.
You can tell Director Evan Jacobs prioritized dialogue with this story. Despite the voice actors obviously not being coming of age middle schoolers themselves, they clearly act like them. Every character is believable, from Brian acting distant for the smallest slights, to Daniela using Erol as a middleman to speak with Danny. One scene that stuck out to me would be when Erol attempts to reconcile with Brian via the school counselor, only for him to essentially blow off his concerns and laugh it off. A pretty realistic depiction of 'mental health assistance' in the school system persisting even today, if you ask me. 1985-1986, whilst not personally hitting the same level of tension and stakes as its predecessor, breaks into new territory by depicting a change of setting for our protagonist and having him undergo a character arc of dramatic change, which is completely fine. It was obvious the vision for this movie was to display a rather realistic story, and if you've got a little over an hour to spare, just give this movie a try. It's got dialogue, captivating characters, and a really accurate portrayal of how young men navigate the formative years of their lives. Really excited to finish this trilogy by Director Jacobs! More reviews to come soon, stay safe and God bless you all.