It's shot in gorgeously calibrated black and white (albeit on color stock). Indeed, the director, Anton Corbijn, and the cinematographer, Martin Ruhe, create a monochromic rainbow from shades of gray. Their work is so intense that when you emerge from the theater, living color seems unreal.
Corbijn pulls off a similar feat with his actors, especially Riley; Samantha Morton as Curtis' wife, Deborah; and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honore, his lover. They conjure an immensity of emotion out of a few moods. They convince you that Curtis had the kind of melancholia that enlarged his gifts and enriched their lives - then leveled them.
A David Bowie follower in the rowhouse town of Macclesfield, Ian wins over Deborah, his best friend's girlfriend, when he recites Wordsworth by heart.
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