A Single Man

A Single Man is told from the point of view of its hero, George (Colin Firth), the single man in question. George is 52 and gay. It has been eight months since his partner Jim (Matthew Goode), died in a car accident while visiting his family, alone, in Colorado. In the house they shared together in Los Angeles, George still grieves. His work, teaching English at a local college, gives him no joy. His only friend, fellow ex-pat Charley (Julianne Moore), is a sad, lonely alcoholic who, like George, has no other friend in the world.

The film opens on what might be the last day of George’s life, in 1962. The first thing he does is check the pistol sitting in a bedside drawer, so the conclusion that he might use it at some stage is unavoidable. George is an obsessively neat man, and performs the same daily routine as he always does, setting out an immaculate suit, finding the perfect tie, polishing his already gleaming shoes. He heads off to class, where he uses a lecture on Aldous Huxley to talk about the myriad ways that humans differ from one another. His students don’t pay much attention, except the cheerful Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who has a bright smile and handsome face and wonders if his lecturer will take drugs with him. George is tempted, but he has made his plans. And so the day unfolds in a series of careful arrangements, chance encounters and heartbreaking memories.

There’s a line of dialogue that passes almost unnoticed in a scene that acts as a touchstone for the entire film: “Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty”. A Single Man is directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, who made his name re-inventing Italian fashion house Gucci in the 1990s. Ford adapted Christopher Isherwood’s dark novel himself, and when no studio was willing to finance the film, paid for it out of his own pocket. The result is a fine debut, impressively photographed and composed, delicately phrased and paced.

Oscar nominated for the role, and hotly tipped to take home the statue, Colin Firth firmly puts aside memories of his Bridget Jones caricature to deliver a performance of astonishing restraint and emotional grace. Unable to reveal his true nature, George has lived his life from behind a mask, assuming an identity that, after decades, is finally starting to chafe. His tasteful furnishings, perfect clothes and gentlemanly demeanour have replaced his real self, with Ford emphasising the cool, coldly flawless world he has built around himself; his pristine house filled with tasteful furniture, his spotless car and down to the clinically white handkerchief George wears in his lapel pocket. The film belongs to Firth, who turns this sad character study into a tender, universal story of heartache and loss.

1 comment:

Lozzie Cap said...

Ahhh yes, thank you for this. I heard a review of this film on the radio and now, having read your words, am very keen to see it.