It's a good thing first-time director Tom Ford — yes, the fashion designer — cast someone with the chops of Colin Firth (A Christmas Carol) as his leading man, because it meant that Firth could be left to carry the movie while Ford got on with what was clearly his primary intention: making the cinematic equivalent of a fashion magazine spread.
Or perhaps Ford deliberately chose Firth so he, the director, wouldn’t have to worry about niggling little things like story and character. Whatever the case: it is a fact that this intimate drama works as well as it does because Firth is so compelling, so plausible, so heartbreaking as a college professor in early 1960s Los Angeles mourning the death of his longtime partner (Matthew Goode [Watchmen] in flashbacks) at a time when such relationships were barely acknowledged, never mind tolerated.
This day-in-the-life tale, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, starts out coolly elegant, the stylish imagery in balance with Firth’s exquisitely delicate performance. But eventually we come to see that Ford is happy to let a cacophony of dissonant visual guises overpower all else.
It’s a shame, because Firth and Goode are one of the most wonderfully romantic couples the screen has ever seen, which makes the grief all the more affectingly tragic. Too bad Ford wasn’t able to let the beauty of it all speak for itself.