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Home Reviews Cinema reviews A Single Man
A Single Man Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 12 February 2010 16:39
Director: Tom Ford
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicholas Hoult, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode
Certificate: 15
Trailers and Clips

It's hard not be completely enraptured by some films. Detailing a single day in the single life of Professor George Falconer (Firth), A Single Man sees the Brit dealing with the loss of his long-term partner Jim (Goode) in a car accident. Standing in class, staring at nothing, George is lonely, sad, and incredibly sexy. It's hard not to notice that. The sexiness.

Kenny (Hoult), one of his students, has obviously clocked it. Emboldened by a lecture on conformity, fear and social minorities, he approaches George several times during the day, offering drink, conversation and a yellow pencil sharpener. It's the little details that make it all so beautiful - the yellow plastic of the stationery beaming out of the screen in an otherwise staid frame. But that's the sheer verve that Tom Ford's film is drenched in; a fashion legend turning his hand to Christopher Isherwood's novel, A Single Man is simple, stoic and, above all, steeped in style. Updating the story to the 60s, the production design throughout is, as you would expect, flawless, from the costumes to the neatly realised period locations. A few minor continuity errors aside, there's no sign that this is the work of a debut director. Far from it - it seems more mature than that. It certainly looks it.

You can see it in Colin Firth's outfit - a plain brown suit and neatly pressed shirt, understated and reserved - which matches his quiet demeanour, all polite manner and grim smiles, while in reality he's screaming in agony and despair. It's been eight months since Jim died and we meet his chirpy, charismatic lover through several flashbacks, one in sumptuous black and white - a bold, unnecessary move that matches the movie's confident palette.

In the present day, George stumbles through, gun in his dresser drawer, cigarette in hand. He's surviving life on his own with no real relationships, save for former lover Charley (Moore), an equally depressed woman who spends her time drinking gin and offering false sympathy to George. "We could still make a go of it," she purrs, lying on the floor. No-one for a minute believes her. It's a scene of pure facade and empty sadness; the perfect complement to Colin's inhibited performance.

Shot through with isolation and sexual tension, Firth's turn is so nuanced and sad that you can't look away. Tom Ford knows it, too, his camera sticking close to Firth's face so we can see every hue in his half-dead eyes (hidden yet magnified behind those sexy black glasses). He's so unbearably hot, he's radioactive. A closet homosexual during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his day is drained of colour. Only when George feels a genuine connection, does the screen flare up into bright posterised life, all blue contact lenses and orange skin. It's a bit done before, but it's a masterful touch, lurching between the chill of loneliness and the intense heat of the moment. At one point he smokes with a rugged Spanish man at a gas station, bathed in the red glow of an L.A sunset. A Single Man looks like an advert, all gloss and glamour, but it lasts for 100 minutes. And you feel every glorious second.


Headed by Colin Firth's outstanding presence, A Single Man matches its polished surface with a sorrowful and deep undercurrent. Simply gorgeous cinema.


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