If only someone would make a fictional gay romance that had as much feeling and depth as Tina Mascara and Guido Santi’s Chris & Don: A Love Story. A wistful, at times unbearably intimate study of the life-long love affair that Los Angeles portrait artist Don Bachardy has had with now-deceased British writer Christopher Isherwood, this documentary is wholly suffused with genuine romantic longing, even as it purposefully investigates the complex bonds between the two men—as lovers, as artists, as mentor/protege, as father/son surrogates—with psychological clarity. While in description, a documentary focusing on the experiences of one pair of lovers might sound hermetic, Chris & Don comes across as remarkably expansive; rarely is love depicted onscreen with this much soul-rattling care.
Bachardy has now been living without Isherwood for more than 20 years, and that fact implicitly shapes the melancholy tone of Mascara and Santi’s film. Due to their thirty-year age difference, moralizing doubts had been cast on their romance from the very beginning; when they met in 1953, Bachardy was a gap-toothed, wiffle-headed 18-year-old with a cherubic, all-American face as fresh as cream, while Isherwood was already a weathered, well-traveled, Cambridge man of letters in his late forties. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Chris & Don: A Love Story.