Staged almost as an extended suicide note, this is not the depressing spectacle you might be expecting and if anything, is life affirming in many ways.
We are in 1962 and following the death of his long time partner “Jim” (Goode), George (Firth) decides that life is really not worth living. He is tired of the world and rails inwardly at the unfairness of his “lifestyle”, still widely unaccepted or tolerated at the time.
George enjoys a long standing relationship with his female friend and sometime lover, “Charley” (Julianne Moore), Charley wishes the relationship remained physical but seems content to accept whatever George is willing to give.
Lecturing, George attempts to hint at his “secret” with little success apart from acquiring the attention of a young male student “Kenny” (Nicholas Hoult), who appears deliberately lit in a way to suggest a perfect Adonis like figure.
We follow Tom through his intended last day on earth as he makes meticulous plans to end his life by causing the minimum of fuss and mess. Resulting in a somewhat macabre yet amusing wrestle with a sleeping bag and revolver. He meets various characters including Charley, Kenny and the gigolo/hustler “Carlos” (Kortajarena) during the course of 24 hours.
There are many flashbacks, illustrating how George finds himself at this point in his life. There is a sense of inevitability as the day wears on but the film may not take you where you expect.
There is no question that the highlight of the film is Firth’s beautifully nuanced reaction when advised of his lovers death by phone, he conveys every emotion possible without saying a word. The phone voice gently but coldly advising that only “family” will be allowed at the funeral. George personifying a man with his emotions so in check on the surface but an emotional time bomb underneath.
The period detail and suits are excellent and everything is presented in a pristine, aesthetic, ordered way, with everything is in it’s place including his immaculate 60’s modern home.
This could easily descend into mawkishness and it is a tribute to the director that this is largely avoided. There is no film without Firth’s performance, for which he was Oscar nominated and the supporting characters are colourful but exist solely to influence George’s state of mind.
Charley is the exception, a well acted fading beauty lashing out as her life turns out in ways she never expected. A good time girl long after the party has moved on, with cleverly crafted scenes clearly illustrating the predicament she finds herself in.
George and Charley’s dance together, somehow managing to be funny, happy and sad all at the same time.
Adapted from Chris Isherwood’s original novel of the same name.
Perhaps unfairly labeled a “Gay” film, this is about a human being suffering loss and attempting to find a reason to carry on.
Life affirming in many ways and certainly worth the price of admission for Firth’s acting alone.