A Single Man (2009)

A Single Man (2009)
  • Time: 99 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Tom Ford
  • Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode


London-bred greater L.A. literature professor George Falconer is shattered by the news his perfect gay partner, architect Jim, died in a car accident while visiting his Denver family, which won’t even invite George for the funeral. The professor contemplates and elaborately prepares to leave the life he now considers meaningless, even after an opportunity to date hot Carlos from Madrid, no longer finding support with jealous, married neighbor-friend Charley, who also immigrated from England. Then his knavish-angelic student Kenny Potter, whom George presumed straight, cheekily but respectfully enters his life, rekindling a taste for joy as well as a fatherly sense of responsibility. But nature surprises them.

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  • Tom Ford shows that he has the skills to cut it out as a film director. Known internationally as the man who helped to revive the Gucci fashion house when it was at the brink of bankruptcy in the mid-nineties, Ford’s decision to enter another glamour industry – the film industry – is rewarded with a Golden Lion nomination at Venice.

    His film, A Single Man, stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore not as lovers but as lonely companions in a film described by Sean Means of Salt Lake Tribune as “a somber character study of a gay man in the early 1960s”.

    A Single Man is not a character study in the truest sense of the words, but it explores the depths of human depression and isolation through a character’s misfortune. George (Firth) is a professor who teaches English at a local university. He is gay and his lover of sixteen years, Jim (Matthew Goode) dies suddenly in a car accident.

    The cruelty of separation with someone he has loved and treasured each moment with causes him to lose hope in his future and question the meaning of his life. Firth’s performance is rightly Oscar-nominated. He becomes one with his character in an elegant, understated manner. He never goes into exaggerated theatrics as if trying to show how good an actor he can be.

    Instead, he triumphs in the art of subtle acting. The result is quite fascinatingly flawed. Firth gives us a character who knows he should be grieving but is unable to because he is at a loss on how he should feel. He keeps most of his emotions inside and finds no avenue or person to vent his frustration upon.

    In the film’s most morbidly hilarious scene, George nonchalantly puts a loaded gun to his mouth, trying to find the best way to kill himself quickly without making a mess of the attempt only to be stopped at the last moment by a phone call from his old friend, Charley (Moore). Charley is a lonely woman in her forties who lost her husband many years ago.

    She needs George to be with her, to be her companion (or possibly, life companion). Unfortunately, George sees Charley only as a cheap substitute for love even though he is fairly comfortable around her.

    A Single Man questions what truly defines love. Can true love ever be replaced? Is homosexuality such a binding force that a straight relationship shockingly pales in comparison? Ford builds on the irony with the presence of another character, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), a straight student with no clear goal in life who finds George, his professor, in a vulnerable state and discovers his homosexuality.

    The director uses the effect of Kenny’s curiosity about George’s homosexuality (and perhaps even Kenny’s hidden own) to illustrate the power of love to provide the best explanation for one’s existence.

    Ford’s direction is calm and composed. His obsession with close-ups and slow-motion shots is obvious and gives a feeling of melancholia. Earlier I mentioned about Firth’s subtle acting as fascinatingly flawed. This subtlety is mostly effective but weak in the sense that it puts a considerable distance between the viewer and the character.

    Although we understand the inner struggles of George, we have little emotional connection to him. This makes the ending strangely empty and not as poignantly resonating as it should.

    GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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