How do I describe my reaction to A Single Man? It was a rather bold, artistic venture. It should come as no surprise that the man at the helm of the project, Tom Ford comes from the fashion world. He definitely has a photographic eye and play with colors and hues pretty effectively.
While generally I do not like to give away too much of the plot when I review (write about I kind of hate the word review) a film, here is a very brief rundown of the plot: based on a novel of the same title (written by Christopher Isherwood), the story is about George Falconer (Colin Firth), and English professor living in Southern California. The movie takes place during the height of the Cuban Missile crisis. It is nearly a year since the death of his partner (Matthew Goode, seen in flashbacks), and he is finding it very hard to cope. Until today that is when he makes a fateful decision about his life.
With this frame of reference, let me talk a little about what I saw in the movie …
The performances were very good especially the central performance (Colin Firth). Who knew Mr. Firth was so versatile? Quite a few people is the answer. There has been evidence of his acting range in a host of films, but like with so many actors, he has been typecast in the role that put him on the map, Mr. Darcy and it various incarnations. It is a shame really but we can remain hopeful that the deserved accolades he is receiving for this performance in A Single Man will lead to more of this type of work.
Not to take anything away from the supporting players either – who are equally effective at hitting the notes that needed to be struck. Julianne Moore delivered as always. And what a good actor young Nicholas Hoult has turned out to be? It seemed like only yesterday that he was playing Hugh Grant’s protege in About a Boy. In between Boy and Man, he is probably also known for his role in the British teenage “dramedy” Skins. In this film he plays a pivotal role in how Firth’s character sees himself and his role in the world. There is one scene near the end of the film (they are sitting in a bar) which is particularly poignant and just about sums up central question the film poses.
Now on the (mildly) down side, there were things that I found a challenge to surmount at times during my viewing. Cinematically, there close-up was used quite often. Personally I had to adjust myself to it as I was watching. Also, there was not as much dialogue in it as I expected – there were lots of moments with no dialogue, just silence or background music – and the stylized visuals. I mark this down to the aforementioned fashion / photographic background of Mr. Ford. Overall these were minor distractions that I think the viewer can adjust themselves to, but some may find it challenging.
On one more positive note, the costume, hair and makeup were fantastic!
In sum total this is a particularly good film considering it is Ford’s directorial debut and he is great at getting what he needs from his actors and creative team. I cannot imagine that the vision he created on screen could have been any less than he imagined in his head (since he also co-wrote the screenplay).
* One final amusing observation I made while watching the movie I noticed actors were speaking in accents not native to them. Mr. Goode and Mr. Hoult were American and Ms. Moore was British … go figure.