Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by: Tom Ford
A Single Man, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, tells the story of George Falconer (Firth), a gay English professor who is struggling to move on after the unexpected death of Jim (Goode), his partner and love of sixteen years. The film shows a single day in George's life in which he prepares to kill himself. He goes to teach his last class, he empties his safety deposit box at the bank, buys bullets for his gun, writes letters to his friends, and picks out which suit he's going to wear at his funeral. Along the way, things get in the way of George's impending suicide, some of them even comical. Among these are a student (Hoult) who becomes fixated with him, a meeting with a Spanish hustler, a drunken visit with his friend Charley (Moore), and recurring memories of his time with Jim.
This film is a very strong debut by fashion designer Tom Ford. Considering Ford's background, it's no surprise that the overall design and visuals of the film are fantastic. The story takes place in 1962, right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the set and the costumes really evoke that era. If you like the look of Mad Men (which I do), then you'll probably love this movie. It's easy to get hung up on the lush and meticulous visual aesthetic of this film. As Firth's character goes through what he assumes will be his last day on Earth, everyday occurrences become more meaningful and poignant to him. Colors turn from dull to blooming and saturated as George experiences things that touch him. A memory of George and Jim on the beach is shown in gorgeous black and white. Everyone frame is filled with a kind of heartbreaking poignancy. However despite the emphasis on the visual aspect and design of this film, A Single Man is not an exercise in style over substance. The movie is an exquisitely told story of a man dealing with grief, trying to live in a world which he no longer feels worth living in. The fact that he's a gay man in 1962 doesn't help matters much. With the cultural atmosphere at the time, he is never really allowed to show his grief and what he's feeling. Everything about him feels buttoned-down, contained, and his whole existence feels like nothing but a mask. Colin Firth gives a revelatory performance. I had written him off as a serious actor (particularly after the Bridget Jones sequel...yikes), but he's really amazing in this movie. Julianne Moore is also great as his lush of a best friend who has been in love with him for years.
Overall, I highly recommend this movie. It has an intriguing story, lush visuals, a beautiful score by Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi, and great performances all around.