It is very rare that I find I can sum up whatever it is that I am reviewing in just one word, however in the case of Tom Ford’s directorial debut, A Single Man, I find this to be easy: Beautiful.
Synopsis: A SINGLE MAN is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood. Set in Los Angeles in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, it is the story of a British college professor (Colin Firth) who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner. The story is a romantic tale of love interrupted, the isolation that is an inherent part of the human condition, and ultimately the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life.
Of course, regular readers will know that there’s absolutely no chance of me leaving my review of this movie at just the one word! 😉
I have to admit that during the opening minutes of the film, I was questioning whether this was going to be a little too arty for a casual Saturday evening out with a friend, however I need not have worried, the film quickly gains clarity and one cannot help but be sucked into deeply the story and to develop real lasting empathy with the characters.
Set in the 60s, I really liked the ‘washed out’ camera effect that helps to set the scene so marvellously. All of the 60s effects in this film are entirely deliberate and the team who worked to create these environments have clearly paid very close detail to honouring the architecture and fashion trends of the period.
My friend Andrew and I both loved the sweeping soundtrack applied to the more ‘routine’ life scenes which we felt really carried/connected the film and helped to make it stand out. As you may have garnered from the trailer, the soundtrack is really important to this movie, with there being a rather high audio-to-dialogue ratio.
The casting in this movie is simply superb! It was a real treat to see Colin Firth in a leading role and not hidden behind Hugh Grant or portrayed as a bumbling (but lovable) English gentleman. I loved his throw-away line “I’m English… we like to be cold and wet”, which had everyone laughing along in the cinema. Much has already been said by other reviewers about Colin Firth’s incredible acting abilities (in line for an Oscar, I’m sure!), and I know that my friend Andrew would kill me if I didn’t highlight Julianna Moore’s performance as being top-notch (where as I was much more ‘tuned in’ to the gorgeous Nicholas Hoult!).
Tom Ford has said many a time that this is not a ‘gay’ film, despite most of the characters having gay tendencies. Rather than this being stand-off-ish, I think that this is actually a rather commendable thing to say – it helps to ‘normalise’ the concept, and nobody in the packed cinema (including the blokey blokes obviously dragged along by girlfriends) seemed to object to what they were presented with.
Speaking of the ‘gay’ element to this film, I have to say that the fantastically electric atmosphere between Colin Firth (a bit of a DILF if ever there was one) and the amazingly gorgeous Nicholas Hoult meant that it wasn’t just my eyes that were feeling the tension *cough* – I have to admit to being an absolute sucker for Hoult’s eyes, and hair! (though I do prefer him paler as he was in Skins rather than his faux-American look).
However, and despite what you may now be thinking(!), the main reason that I like this film is for the emotive journey that it took me on. I spent half of the film with my hand to my mouth in what felt like genuine concern, and at the end (with its beautiful Film Noir-esque shot) the cinema audience were left sat there absolutely motionless when the lights came up, visibly stunned/shocked. I have to admit to brushing away a tear or two – it really affected me. I found that I was easily able to relate to elements of it really well (I’m sure we all ponder our own mortality/place on Earth, right?) and found myself readily identifying with attributes shown in all of the characters.
If you happen to see just one film this awards season, you simply MUST make it A Single Man – it is perhaps one of the best films that I have seen in years.