Film note: Bring your Kleenex to “Chris & Don: A Love Story”


Chris & Don: A Love Story is a documentary that unfolds the layers of the three-decade relationship between the accomplished writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner Don Bachardy, a successful portrait painter. It is a story about two men who courageously lived as an openly gay couple in Los Angeles when it was still unpopular to do so. It is also a story of two people who overcame societal prejudices regarding their unequal social status, developed their separate identities, and bonded as a nurturing couple.

Chris & Don: A Love Story, a film directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara. Showing on June 28 as part of the Queer Takes film series at the Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets ($8) and information, see

Bachardy recounts his life with Isherwood, thirty years his senior, whom he met when he was 18 years old in 1952. Bachardy not only acquired Isherwood’s British accent and mannerisms, but under his tutelage he blossomed into an accomplished artist. Chris & Don is a sensitive love story about a man who meets a boy; they fall in love and live happily ever after.

The long-term relationship is documented in black-and-white photographs going as far back as Isherwood’s European childhood, and in interviews with friends of the couple. About two-thirds of the way into the film—just when a different perspective is needed—Bachardy’s bold, colorful paintings are shown. In those paintings the artist’s personality and talent are revealed. Sketches of Isherwood in the nude show his physical changes as he was dying of cancer.

This film has all the elements of an emotional twister: harmonious music, a charismatic old man, the beautiful Santa Monica beach, and a charming cottage with verdant shrubs, flowering plants, and a white picket fence. The doors of the art studio swing open against a backdrop of mountain scenery. Have tissues handy when you go to see this film.

Jennifer Holder contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

Queer Takes in the Daily Planet
Lydia Howell previews Queer Takes with curator Dean Otto
• Julia Opoti on Vivere and XXY
• James Sanna on Before I Forget and Boystown