Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man is the story about a gay British professor who loses his lover in an accident as he decides to kill himself. Directed by Tom Ford and adapted by Ford and David Scearce, the film is an exploration of a man in mourning while pondering about his own existence in early 1960s Southern California. Starring Colin Firth, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Julianne Moore. A Single Man is a gorgeous yet compelling drama from Tom Ford.
Following the death of his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) several months earlier, British professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) has remain haunted by Jim’s death as he reflects on memories of his life with Jim and the day he got the call about Jim’s death. With only his longtime friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore) around nearby, George’s grief continues to surround him as he decides to kill himself later in the day. Working at a university in nearby Los Angeles, George spends the day teaching as he manages to catch the interest of his young student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Later in the day, George goes to the bank where he runs into his neighbor Mrs. Strunk (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her daughter Jennifer (Ryan Simpkin) while stopping at a liquor store to buy alcohol where he chats with a Spanish male hooker named Carlos (Jon Kortajarena).
Still despondent over Jim, George had also bought bullets for a pistol in his intent to kill himself. He then chooses to eat dinner with Charlotte as the two talk about their old life in Britain as Charlotte admits to feeling envious towards George and his relationship with Jim. Particularly as Charlotte couldn’t do enough to save her own marriage as George’s memories of Jim about how they first met has him going back to the bar where they met. He runs into Kenny at the bar where the two chat while George ponders about his possible final moments of his life.
What happens when someone loses the love of their life and is unable to find something else afterwards? For a man like George Falconer, he couldn’t deal with a life without his lover Jim as the film is an exploration of a man trying to come to terms with his lover’s death as he seeks to end his own life in the span of an entire day. Throughout the film, George is reflecting on memories of his life with Jim from how they met to the moment he got a call about Jim’s death while meeting various people he knows in his life or those he barely know that are very interesting to him.
The script that Tom Ford and David Scearce create is a character study of a man in what could be the last day of his life as the film both opens and ends with voice-over narration on George reflecting on what he might do. The script also allows to go very depth in not just George’s relationship with Jim but also Charlotte whom he’s known a lot longer since they’re both British who are very close friends and were lovers for a brief time. Charlotte is a woman who is just as lonely as she has been divorced and her own child has already left leaving with not really much to do at all as she hopes to have George around so neither of them wouldn’t be lonely. Still, it’s not enough for George as he finds himself catching the attention of a young student who just wants to offer some form of companionship as the two talk about age and experience which prompts George to think that there could be life after Jim.
Tom Ford’s direction is truly entrancing in the way he presents the film with lots of style to complement the mood of George Falconer. Ford, who is known as a fashion designer, definitely goes for a film that is like a fashion presentation but with a deeper context due to its narrative. Part of Ford’s unique presentation is the way the film looks with this heightened yet de-colored photography that exemplify Falconer’s detached mood. Yet, it would go into full color for emotional reasons to express his yearning to possibly reconnect or see something that he likes. Ford also has this engaging eye for the way objects are presented as if there is something very meticulous to the way an object like pencil sharpener might look or how an object is placed on a desk. It’s all part of who George Falconer is as Ford creates what is truly a mesmerizing and hypnotic film.
Cinematographer Eduard Grau does a brilliant job with the film‘s cinematography from a gorgeous black-and-white flashback scene to the way the film looks throughout the film from its de-saturated yet heightened feel to a much broader look where the coloring intensifies to complement George‘s mood. Editor Joan Sobel does a terrific job with the editing to play up the intensity of the drama while utilizing jump-cuts to play with some of the rhythm in George’s flashbacks as well as straight cuts to help move the transitions in a very leisured, methodical approach.
Production designer Dan Bishop, along with set decorator Amy Wells and art director Ian Phillips, does a spectacular job with the set pieces created such as George‘s home and the objects created to exemplify the world of early 1960s America. Costume designer Ariane Phillips does a superb job with the costumes from the suits that George wears to the very stylish dress that Charlotte wears during the dinner. Sound designer Leslie Shatz and sound editor Robert Jackson do an amazing job with the sound work to complement some of the distorted feelings that George is going through in what he’s hearing to the sparse intimacy in some of the locations that he is present in.
The film’s score by Abel Korzeniowski is great for its low-key yet somber piano to play up the melancholia that surrounds the film. Additional music by Shigeru Umebayashi features heavier orchestral pieces that soars throughout the film as it plays up the more melodramatic elements of the film. Music supervisor Julia Michels does an excellent job with selecting some of the music that is played in the film like Etta James, Bernard Herrmann, Jo Stafford, and Booker T. & the M.G.s to play up the world of the 1960s.
The casting by Joseph Middleton is outstanding for the ensemble that is created as it includes Elisabeth Harnois as a young woman with a dog that George meets, Lee Pace as a fellow professor, Keri Lynn Pratt as a young secretary George notices, Aline Weber as a friend of Kenny’s, Erin Daniels as a bank teller, Jon Kortajarena as the male Spanish prostitute Carlos that George chats with, and Jon Hamm in an un-credited voice cameo as a man on the phone who tells George the horrible news. Other notable small roles include Ginnifer Goodwin as George’s kindly neighbor Mrs. Strunk along with Ryan Simpkin as her daughter and Paul Butler as her toy-gun playing son.
Nicholas Hoult is excellent as the very handsome Kenny who wants to get to know George while wondering why he’s been reluctant to be around people lately. Matthew Goode is wonderful as Jim, a charming yet delightful man who would be George’s lover as Goode makes a fantastic impression in the flashback scenes. Julianne Moore is great as Charlotte, a lonely yet lavish woman as Moore brings a wonderful sense of charm and an over-the-top persona to a woman desperate to not be alone as it’s a radiant role for Moore. Finally, there’s Colin Firth in a magnificent yet haunting performance as George Falconer. Firth’s performance is entrancing for the way he deals with death and his determination to end it while going through all of the turmoil and anguish of what he’s dealing with. It is truly a performance for the ages from Colin Firth.
A Single Man is an extraordinary yet rapturous film from Tom Ford that features a heartbreaking performance from Colin Firth. The film is definitely a wonderful directorial debut for Ford that truly exemplifies his idea of style that is all over the place but very engaging in its presentation. Particularly as it presents itself like a period piece that exudes itself with exquisite beauty that is rarely seen in a lot of films in recent years. In the end, A Single Man is a stunning yet beautiful film from Tom Ford.
© thevoid99 2011