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Bachelor 38 review - an affirming look at life, love and bereavement

21st February 2019

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Verdict: An emotionally engaging interview that offers laughs and tears in equal measure.

Image credit: BAFTA

Directed by Angela Clarke, Bachelor, 38 is a touching documentary that chronicles the life, love and bereavement of Bryan Bale. Adorned in a thick leather jacket, Bale is a warm and affecting presence as he recalls growing up in Cardiff at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. He would come to realise his own homosexuality at the age of ten, and later move to London in his early 20s. It was there where he would then meet the love of his life, John Harrison, via the back page of The Sunday Times.
As Bale opens up about his relationship, Clarke has the camera closing in on little details around his home. Many of them are old photographs of the pair held within decorative - and protective - hand sculptures. One fond memory is of their first meeting, wherein Bale enchants Harrison by turning their fish and chips supper into chips sandwiches. A painful one comes later on, when after nine years together their relationship would still not be dignified as anything more than friends.
The short clocks in at just 16 minutes, but Bale’s story and the humour and heart with which he tells it could have allowed for countless more recollections. Still, it stands as a truly engaging and rewarding watch. Clarke has great empathy for capturing her subject; with neither pomp nor reservation she allows Bale to simply be and tell his own story. Tears are shed as he reflects on the past without it ever venturing into self-pity: "I’m a born optimist. My cup is always half full, never half empty." The past should be remembered, the film tells us, for all its laughter and pain, but we cannot forget to embrace the future. Whatever it may bring us.
Bachelor, 38 is now available to stream exclusively via Curzon Home Cinema. 

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