A Single Man
Tom Ford, the fashion industry’s Dorian Gray, adapts Christopher Isherwood’s spare, lyrical study of alienation and loss for his film debut (as director and screenwriter).
A Single Man traces a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a middle-aged English college professor, exiled to Southern California. A series of flashbacks outlines George’s 16-year relationship with the recently deceased Jim (Matthew Goode).
Ford’s film is a frustrating experience. At times achingly moving, particularly in the scenes of everyday domesticity between George and Jim, it also relies too heavily on redundant visual gimmicks. At one point George parks his car in front of a huge, blown-up poster of Janet Leigh in Psycho. It’s a showy gesture worthy of Almodóvar, but it’s an unnecessary distraction from the meat of the film, which is George’s gradual journey away from despair.
More annoying is the director’s constant switching between colour tones, from a washed-out hue to warmer shades at moments of clarity or epiphany.
A more seasoned filmmaker would have had the confidence to rely on this movie’s greatest asset – its lead actor – in conveying these complex emotional shifts. Firth succeeds in communicating all the pain and loneliness of a broken heart with an incredibly subtle, nuanced performance, and it’s this that resonates long after the film has finished.
Selected release from Fri 12 Feb.