A Single Man (2009)

Directed by Tom Ford
Written by David Scearce & Tom Ford

Simple and Beautiful. That is what this film was. What was most impressive about this debut feature from Tom Ford is the style of it. Mr. Ford has a vision (as he is writer, producer and director) and he follows through with it. A fashion designer by trade, Ford obviously has style, and that style is transferred onto the screen. The costume design is nice. What Firth, Moore, and Goodwin wear are lovely suits and dresses that convince me it is 1962. The set decoration is great too, total 1962 once again. The house in which Firth’s character, George Falconer, lives is awesome, and it’s no surprise when we learn he has been living with an architect. The visual style is rousing too, probably that which is most impressive. The cinematography (Eduard Grau), the choreography of each frame, each shot, each scene is just great. The actor or object is seemingly in the right place on screen all the time. And when it doesn’t seem that way, it’s because that is how Ford wants you to see it. There are many great close-ups and angles that bring the whole story together with images. The use of color adds another dimension too. This is visual storytelling. And when I say visual storytelling I mean it because there isn’t a great amount of dialogue here really. Much of the story is told in images and the great score (Abel Korzeniowski) that goes along with it. And the score is great. And all of this doesn’t even mention the story.

The story is strong too. In essence it’s a story of love, of love lost in more ways than one. Without revealing too much about the story past the synopsis, let me just say it is simple, it is sad, but it is so complex and, if you look at it from the right way, it can be hopeful at times. The way that Ford composes his story, which at its core is simple, is spectacular. The way he uses flashbacks and symbolism, he weaves an intricate puzzle which, when put together, is quite a picture. What is more is the time span of the film. Believe it or not, it takes place in the time of one Friday in the fall of 1962 in Los Angeles. There are visions and flashbacks, but the actual story unfolds in one day. It certainly doesn’t feel like that, and that is the wonder of Ford’s structure. The first act of the film is some of the best filmmaking of the year I would say. It doesn’t hold up all the way through but it stays solid and overall is a great achievement for any filmmaking team, let a lone one led by a first time director.

Now about the performances, Colin Firth is as advertised: amazing. His performance can be so subtle and moving at times and then there is a scene or two where he explodes on the screen and is still able to hold the character together. Start to finish a great presence on the screen, and a great performance. Julianne Moore (Charlotte) was quite good in a small role too. There are two things I have against her character though. For one, she doesn’t have enough screen time. And for two, and it’s is somewhat related to number one, she doesn’t have enough story to her. We are given her past in outline form, but we know very little of her present, and maybe that’s the point in the end, I just kind of wish we saw more of her, because she could have been great. Now for the men in George’s life: Jim (Matthew Goode) and Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Goode wasn’t given a whole lot, but what he was given he handled like the professional he is. Hoult on the other hand was hit or miss for me. There were times where he was able to keep up with Firth, but more often than not he just looked bad next to Firth. Consider this film recommended, if not for Colin Firth and his great performance, or for Ford’s great directorial debut, then for the stark beauty of either the story or the look of the film.

***1/2 – Great

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