Written by Tom Ford & David Scearce
Directed by Tom Ford
Where & When: Pasadena Playhouse 7, Pasadena, CA. December 24, 2009 8:30PM
"A Single Man", a stylish, masterful work by first-time filmmaker, Tom Ford, takes place in one day, November 30, 1962. George Falconer (Colin Firth), a British college professor living in Los Angeles, has woken up from another bad dream about his deceased, young lover, Jim (Matthew Goode). He has decided that this would be the right time to end his life so he will no longer feel the excruciating pain he's been suffering since the loss.
George goes through the motions like this was any other day but he's carefully making arrangements before he takes his life. He goes to the university to teach his class but feels inspired to simply just speak on what's actually on his mind. He gives an impassioned speech to his class which seemed to go over their heads. It does leave an impression on one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Intrigued by his teacher, Kenny would love to spend some time to get to know him better. Flattered but declining his offer, George proceeds to head to his office to clean out his desk.
George methodically continues his errands; going to the bank to empty his safety deposit box that includes a nude photo of Jim, then goes to gun shop to purchase bullets. Once home, he neatly arranges all of his financial paper work, keys and the clothes he should be buried in. Now, George seems ready to proceed with the task at hand.
After several attempts to commit the act, he cannot seem to actually go through with it. George walks over goes to his neighbor's house where a beautiful woman named Charley (Julianne Moore) answers the door. She is another British expatriate who had a brief romantic encounter with him many years ago and now just very good friends. Bruised by life and a little lonely, Charley's goal for this evening is to simply smoke, drink heavily and have a good time with her neighbor.
George manages to eventually escape from Charley's desperate grasp and decides to head to a local bar. This just happens to be the place he had met Jim years ago. By the time George places his order, Kenny, his student walks into the bar. They spend the evening talking and taking a moonlit swim together before finally going back to George's home for a nightcap. Although very attracted to the young man, will it be enough to keep him from going through with his plan?
I had never given much thought about Mr. Firth before as an actor. I had seen him in quite of few films over the years and I thought he was fine but he never really left much of an impression on me. Perhaps it was the parts he has played or that he is just not one of those actors who feels the need to showboat but this film has certainly given him an opportunity to shine. He gives an absolutely amazing portrayal of a gay man who is stifled by a society that doesn't want to know that he exists and feels he has lost the only reason to keep on living. He just crushed me during the moment that George is informed that his lover has died and he is not invited to the funeral. The look of heartbreak and pain on his face just devastated me. Despite her English accent being slightly wobbly at times, Ms. Moore has never failed to electrify every moment she is on the screen and she once again gives another astonishing performance.
"A Single Man" is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Christopher Isherwood with Tom Ford, best known as a top fashion designer for Gucci before launching his own line, co-writing the screenplay in addition to directing. I'm still quite amazed at what he has accomplished with his very first film. Mr. Ford may have spent most of his career designing clothing but it's quite apparent that he spent quite a bit of time preparing and studying cinema to be able to craft this work of art. You can see the influence of some of the great European film makers and their work during the 60's, most notably the Italian masters like Federico Fellini and Micheangelo Antonioni throughout "A Single Man". I am also impressed by the great work of cinematographer, Eduard Grau. His brilliant compositions, close-ups and use of light, color and black and white film help create the many moods throughout the film. It's really no surprise that the art direction and the costumes are impeccable. I cannot praise "A Single Man" enough. I highly recommend that you see this wonderfully beautiful film.