Christopher Isherwood could never keep himself out of his own novels, so no one familiar with the openly gay author will find this documentary about his relationship with the painter Don Bachardy either sensational or revelatory. Providing very little on the artist’s working method, it is instead a tender (albeit somewhat hokey) double portrait that zooms in on the domestic details of the couple’s 38-year love affair.
With few talking heads available, the movie makes do with archival clips of the lovers, re-enacting their first romantic encounter, when Isherwood was 46 and Don just 16. Relying on this, the directors succeed in painting a picture of a gay Hollywood couple who were public in defiance of social norms. More interesting, however, is the recent footage in the film, showing Bachardy, now 74, as he putters about his day. Since Isherwood’s passing in 1986, he has lived in a state of humbled mourning, and it is touching to watch him mumbling to himself in his apartment, peddling furiously on his bicycle and doing reps at the gym, all the while still thinking of and revering Isherwood.