A Single Man
A Single Man
2009. Directed by Tom Ford
Fashion legend Tom Ford's directorial debut is a straight forward examination of the death of a loved one, viewed through events in the life of man during a single 24 hour period.
1962, Los Angeles. George, a British profession, lost his partner Jim in an automobile accident eight months prior to the day that film takes place, Unable to cope with his pain, George decides to end his life. He spends the duration of the day going about his normal routine, pausing to savor the splendors of life, reconnecting with old friends, and possibly forming new romantic attachments prior to his self imposed demise.
The first attribute that jumps out is Ford's flawless composition. His ability to frame a scene and allow Edward Grau's cinematography to float off the screen is impressive and oddly, beautifully restrained. This is a film about loss and life. The placement of every object, the blocking, the glowing color palette, all of them combine to create an imagined version of Los Angeles, a world full of the things that have been irrevocably stolen from George in an instant.
Colin Firth delivers the performance of career as George. Firth's quiet submission is layered with subtext, conveying a sense of cosmetic depression that is overcome by appreciation of the wonders of the living. The cosmetic piece is that Firth manages to show that George's condition isn't a result of his refusal to accept loss so much as it is that he has not embraced his grief and made it a part of himself. Firth masterfully haunts every frame as a man with a hole through his center, desperately trying to fill it with meaning from the little things, while simultaneously finding the greatness of life in those tiny pieces of everyday human interaction. It is a fascinating performance that gets better with each viewing.
Firth is supported by Julianne Moore as George's fellow Brit who harbors feelings for him. Moore is an actress that is able to melt away into a character and her performance here is no exception. Her unrequited advances coupled with her character's own grief and loss of purpose begin as a kindred to George's situation but Moore's mastery of Ford and David Scearce's script allows the relationship to morph into a catalyst for George's dilemma, propelling the story into it's final act. Matthew Goode is Jim, George's lover, whom the audience meets via flashbacks while Nicholas Hoult delivers a soft, genuine turn as a student of George's who crosses the boundaries of teacher and pupil. Jon Kortajarena has the best scene with Firth as a male escort who forms a precious bond with the suicidal George that slowly starts him on his journey home.
Abel Korzeniowski's score is a musical splinter of George's heart, Lacking any kind of bellicose presentation, the beautifully crafted audios glide behind the action and heighten whenever George stops to metaphysically smell the roses and then return to the backstage of his shattered heart. One of the most striking things about A Single Man is that while the cinematography is solid, it's a beautiful film because of it's characters. Arianne Phillip's costume design joins with Kate Biscoe's makeup and Cydney Cornell's hair styling to present the cast as statues given life. They are simple, graceful beings who possess an unnerving quality, setting them apart from the sunshine kissed environs of post-war LA.
Available now on Netflix, A Single Man is a film that doesn't offer anything new to this kind of film genre. What it does do is present the subject matter in a respectful and an undeniably beautiful package, signaling that Ford is a director who can only improve as he continues to hone his trade. If you're looking for a more serious film that doesn't get too deep with its implications and uses stunning visuals to make you forget it's depth, then this the film for you.