Talking Movies

February 10, 2010

A Single Man

Fashion designer Tom Ford makes a stunning directorial debut with a film whose unsurprisingly impeccable tailoring and gorgeous visuals are matched by surprising depth of characterisation and emotional maturity.

Colin Firth stars as George Falconer, a very English professor of literature in a small college in Los Angeles who we follow over the course of one day, November 30 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis has the world on edge but for the suicidal George the world already ended 8 months previously when his partner Jim died in a car accident. This being 1962 George has no public outlet for his crushing grief, indeed, in the most upsetting scene you will see all year, George only finds out about Jim’s death because one of Jim’s cousins defies Jim’s parents and rings from Colorado to inform George, before telling him that he can’t come to the funeral – which is for family only…

George outwardly appears to be exactly who is supposed to be, as he informs us in the opening voiceover but he is pretending on two levels, and the more important deception is not the pretence that he is straight but the pretence that he is okay. In fact he struggles to find any compelling reason to get out of bed every day as the one person who anchored his existence in the world is gone. Ford makes great use of suddenly varying the colour saturation within shots to show the bleakness of the world from George’s point of view, with occasional surges of colour when he is momentarily aroused or excited, or when he is overtaken by a sudden flood of memories.

Matthew Goode is wonderfully warm in these flashbacks as Jim, George’s partner of 16 years. What’s most refreshing is that Ford’s depiction of this gay couple prioritises the latter element over the former as we see them in scenes of cosy domesticity trading barbed insults alongside serious musings. A scene where they discuss women is marvellous for mapping changing gay mores as George remembers his youthful sexual relationship with his best friend Charley (Julianne Moore), an alcoholic divorced fellow English exile who is now his most tangible link with the world. Charley and an enigmatic young student (Nicholas Hoult) who is apparently stalking him might be the only forces able to stop George from killing himself, other than his endless inability to find a comfortable enough position in his bed in which to pull the trigger – a sequence of jet-black hilarity.

Ford, who financed the film as well as co-writing and directing, has managed to transform a forgotten Christopher Isherwood novel into a compassionate meditation on human relationships which is also sprinkled with hilarious lines. Firth’s performance which is full of dry wit beside the expressive grief is a career highlight in an early contender for film of the year. Highly Recommended.



  1. […] in A Single Man [Image Courtesy: Talking Movies]The next year, 2010, was golden, and Firth finally got his Oscar for The Kings Speech. On the brink […]

    Pingback by Thought of the Day 9.10.12 Colin Firth « ritaLOVEStoWRITE — September 11, 2012 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  2. Great write up. Love the movie. Love the book.
    I agree Tom Ford has manged do a really good job of a forgotten Isherwood gem. Firth was brilliant, he should have won the Oscar that year. But, I was happy when won the following year for an even better role.

    Comment by nuwansenfilmsen — September 12, 2013 @ 11:48 am | Reply

    • Hi Nuwan,

      Thanks for the comment! Glad you liked the review.

      I still haven’t read the book, so I envy you on that front.

      I have a theory that the Oscars have been out of step since Jimmy Stewart didn’t win for Mr Smith Goes to Washington and had to be given it for The Philadelphia Story instead the next year.

      Comment by Fergal Casey — September 18, 2013 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

      • I love ‘The Philadelphia Story’. Am yet to watch ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’.
        I agree, there have been quite a few bad Oscar choices, not all, but still way too many wrong choices for such reputed award.

        Comment by nuwansenfilmsen — September 19, 2013 @ 7:42 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: