Famous fashion designer Tom Ford clearly tries too hard with his directorial debut, but I prefer his overreaching to the cookie-cutter approach displayed by cinematic neophytes merely aping their contemporaries. If nothing else, this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel has a visual style that's clearly its own, and while some of the mise-en-scenes smack of pretension, most are quite beautiful and serve the overall mood of the piece.
Set in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, the film casts Colin Firth as British professor George Falconer, a closeted homosexual still reeling from the death of his longtime lover (Matthew Goode, seen frequently in flashback). Falconer stumbles through a seemingly typical day fully intent on killing himself that evening, but before that's set to happen, he spends some meaningful one-on-one time with various people, including his lonely friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and Kenny (About a Boy's Nicholas Hoult, all grown up), a sexually ambiguous student who wants to hear more of his teacher's philosophies.
The ending, which would be considered a deus ex machina moment had it not been briefly (and clumsily) telegraphed toward the beginning of the film, is a major letdown, but everything leading up to it is pleasingly mature and understated.