“Waking up begins with saying am and now.”
These were the first words uttered from the Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 book and its 2009 film incarnation, A Single Man. The story is about a 52-year-old professor’s (Colin Firth) journey as he loses his partner (Matthew Goode) of sixteen years in 1962. It’s fashion designer Tom Ford’s first feature film and he successfully creates a film of substance rather than a hallow fashion film. The film focuses on major themes stemming from identity, loss, human connection, and death and its aftermath. While Ford claims that this film is, first and foremost, a basic love story, its themes deal directly much to the gay community. It may not be a “gay film,” but the professor deals with homophobia very clearly: his appearance at his lover’s funeral is rejected, the anger that he needs to be invisible, and his best friend saying an off-hand remark that his love was a substitute for love.
In the mere 99 minutes of A Single Man, its structure and form is rendered beautifully with Ford’s attention to detail and its haunting “Hitchcockian” music. For example, the slow agonizing and repetitive steps of death are harrowing while the moments of loss are played with the sounds of drowning. Ford also adds a sense of morbid humor as Firth attempts to kill himself. And the scenes shift to many of the human body features, especially the lips. Colin Firth leaves a beautiful and sad performance as he goes through the day without his lover. Anal, passionate, pessimistic, coldhearted; He’s wicked but his sense of heart is hiding and aching. His performance isn’t bombastic, but leaves a realistic sense of sadness. In Addition, his style should be commended as he dresses debonair, intelligent, and couture- A side effect Ford must surely have.
The other actors provide great performances with special notice to Matthew Goode playing the sympathetic and domestic lover as he really shines in the tender flashbacks. Julianne Moore is a conundrum as she plays a messy, yet proper British lady who unsuccessfully yearns to be with Firth. The other men in Firth’s lives give stellar performances with Jon Kortajarena playing the mysterious Latin boy reminiscent of James Dean while Nicholas Hoult plays the stalker-like student who longs to feel a sense of intellectual connection with Firth. Slow at first, the film will leave an impression especially the flashbacks with the professor’s lover as they first met or when they are chatting in the beach or in their living room.
The reception has been highly acclaimed, especially from the International Venice Film Festival and the Golden Globes. Tom Ford may have intended A Single Man to be simply a love story, but thank you still for your nods to the gay community.
My Rating: A
The Adovcate: Tom Ford talks about his first feature film, its inspirations, and its autobiographical themes.