Words: Alicia McBride
'A Single Man'
Director: Tom Ford
Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult
To say I was filled with excitement and anticipation at the release of this film would be an understatement. I wholeheartedly believe that the UK trailer (embedded above / the American one is a bit pants) is one of the greatest trailers ever made. If you need proof, here is an excerpt of me waxing lyrical on my own blog: "The juxtaposition of Matthew Goode's character lying dead on the snow surrounded by blood, with Colin Firth in bed surrounded by black ink is one of the most spectacular things ever committed to screen. Plus it has Julianne Moore! JULIANNE MOORE! The woman is a goddess." You get the gist. The film is about expat professor, George (Firth), who is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his partner (Goode) eight months previously. The narrative takes place within one day, with flashbacks to their life together filling in the blanks.
The film has Tom Ford at the helm – the man who single-handedly saved Gucci and made it the label it is today. He now has his own fashion line and has modelled in the past. His background seems incongruent with this emotionally intelligent and heartbreaking film, yet he has created a masterpiece. Clearly he is more than aware of the power of a strong visual and it is his visionary crafting that makes the film so special. Every shot is beautiful. There is no other way to say it. The Times reviewed the film as a "thing of heart-stopping beauty" and they were not wrong. George’s every day existence is leached of colour, at times the film almost feels as though it has been shot in greyscale, yet whenever he has a significant meeting with someone or an emotional connection the screen is flooded with colour. Admittedly, this effect started to grate after a while. It is striking and used very effectively in a conversation between George and Kenny (Hoult) but it does become predictable and sometimes is so saturated with colour it feels like Dorothy first entering Oz all over again.
The real power of this film comes from the emotion of the story. The end is poignant and bittersweet and incredibly sad. The exploration of isolation and loneliness is poetic in its form, yet still accessible. George’s life may be beautifully tragic (or tragically beautiful?) but it is still possible to relate to him and understand his pain. Often films with such artistry and emotional scope can alienate the audience but this remains engaging. The Oscar nomination for Firth’s performance is well-deserved. In fact, I am surprised the film was not nominated for more. I cannot recommend it enough.