Small spoiler: a quotation from near the end of the film.
I first saw this film when I was about 12, on a late-night movie series, a year or two after it came out. Years later I got a chance to record it, and I cling to the fading video tape and will do so until someone brings it out on DVD. I loved it then; I love it when I watched it again tonight. It is one of my half-dozen favorite films ever.
Note that I don't say one of the best films ever. It's not in that class, despite the talent in front of the camera (Michael Jayston, Mia Farrow, Topol) and behind it (Peter Shaffer, Carol Reed, John Barry). To boost it too high is to risk disappointing the viewers who eventually find their way to this film, because it isn't a masterpiece. And, as a few naysayers have said, it IS predictable. (Or, at least, it can only go in one of a very limited number of directions.) But it is sensitive, charming, literate, well-acted, and beautiful to look at. It is a celebration of taking joy in life's small moments. And, I might add, a celebration of free-spirits that doesn't try to make us admire labored wackiness. For what it is--slight, conventional in structure, a typical one-act play--it is a beautiful little character piece.
The joys of this film are threefold: It is a valentine to pre-punk London, with gorgeous photography helped along by John Barry's lovely (if repetitive) music. The dialog, from Peter Shaffer's one-act play, is both witty and poignant. Why not have a movie that is mostly talk, if the talk is this good? And the actors doing that talking are up to the challenge. Even Michael Jayston is good, although something of a weak link because he is the sole element of the movie somewhat lacking in charm. (He has a mouth like the slit in a letter-box.) Mia Farrow is luminous: skinny and odd, sure, but definitely a "glorious girl," bright, dreamy, and sensitive.
But the movie is really Topol's. Looking a bit like Ringo Starr, his Anglo-Greek Julian Christopherou is at first glance, as Farrow's character describes him, "a goofy little man in a white raincoat." By the end of the movie he has revealed so many facets to himself that many women will think him a model of romance. I would run away with him in an instant.
I'm 50 years old, and since I was 12 I have been influenced in my view of life by a passage of dialog near the end of this movie: "Beware: there is no sin in the world more unpardonable than denying you were pleased when pleasure touched you. . . I gave you joy. Not eternal joy or even joy for a month. But immediate particular bright little minutes of joy--which is all we ever get or should expect." And that's exactly what this movie gives: immediate particular bright little minutes of joy.