**Film only review**Contains Spoilers**
"If one is not enjoying one's present, there isn't a great deal to suggest that the future should be any better" (George)
I saw "A Single Man" on DVD recently. You know when you watch one of those films, that when you finish it, you can't stop thinking about it? It had that affect on me. It has themes and ideas that hit me, and it's all I can think about. In the smallest of nutshells, this film explores the ideas of your last day of existence - seeing beauty in the simple and ordinary things. What would you do with your last few hours? With that, the film depicts love and loss - I feel there is a poignancy in this film that will resonate with a lot of people.
This film, based on the book by Christopher Isherwood is the directorial debut of stylist and fashionista, Tom Ford. Set in 1960s Los Angeles on the eve of the Cuban Missile crisis, this visually stunning film transports you back in time, with a gritty and bleak, yet sophisticated style. George (Colin Firth) is a man, left alone after his lover passed away. The film is littered with a series of flashbacks, of George grieving and thinking about the love and happiness he had with Jim (Matthew Goode). Through visits to see Charley (Julianne Moore), his best friend, more details about George's background is revealed. He has decided he wants to end his life, as his broken heart is too much to bare. Throughout his last day, he notices little things that he would not have appreciated before - the bright red of someone's lip, the charm of meeting someone for the first time, the smell of fresh air and the small kindness offered from strangers. George is a teacher, who also becomes the object of affection by student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Through their teacher/pupil relationship we see that life isn't as clear cut as it appears on the surface. Kenny buys George a little yellow pencil sharpener to show appreciation for talking to him. Retrospectively this is a bit of an odd gift, but nevertheless, George keeps it on him in his pocket - it's the little things that are standing out to George.
Julianne Moore plays the British and regretful Charley with sincerity and grace. Her accent is questionable but not terrible. Her character holds a torch for George, and longs that they could have got together. Her husband has left her and her son has moved out - she too, is alone. British actor, Matthew Goode, plays Jim, George's lover. Jim is handsome, sweet and charming. We learn how George and Jim first met and how life living together was beautiful, in their beautifully designed house. Goode's accent is good (better than Moore's British attempt anyway) and truth of character believable. British actor and Skins star, Nicholas Hoult plays Kenny, the student. I feel that Hoult is a remarkably underrated actor with a bright future. He played his character with maturity and vigeur, encapsulating a naive charm that hooks George's attention. He also had a convincing american accent (what is it about this film and casting actors that don't talk in the native dialect???)...A real star of this movie.
Fashion designer and all round style legend, Tom Ford directs this masterpiece as his debut. His sensibility is really tested in this film, and I feel he succeeds. One of the things that gripped me about this film, is the look - it oozes class and 60s charm. His background as a designer and fashion house is clear in his direction - each detail on the screen is beautifully presented. His sense of direction comes across on screen as precise and carefully engineered. It felt that at any moment, you could pause the film and be left with a poster worthy image. Ford has captured a sense of the 60s with poise. The feel is stylish but remaining true to George's bleak state of mind. Through George's eyes and memories, objects and elements brighten up to reflect their unnoticed beauty that is taken for granted in the day to day. Ford brings out a real sense of who the characters are and where their drivers come from.
Accompanied by a few 60s tracks that many will remember, the original score is beautiful capturing a real sense of time and place. Some well known 60s music appears, on top of an enlightening original score, the soundtrack probably has something that should delight everyone from the avid American nostalgic to the classical music lover.
If you have a spare hour or two, and looking for a film that will make you think and more importantly, make you appreciate life and everything in it - this film is for you. It is slow burning, and It's not "feel good" per se, so it steers more towards the profound and poignant. Colin Firth is flawless in this film. He brings depth, charm and vulnerability to a broken man, who is a shadow of the man we see in flashbacks with his lover, where he is full of life and vibrancy. His performance is astounding. Needless to say, he won the Oscar for best Actor (as well as a host of other awards) for his role in this film, back in 2009. He under plays the role with deft sensitivity and a quality that bring a lump to the throat of the hardiest cold heart.
"Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty". (Carlos, a character that George meets)
A tricky subject to handle for his debut, but Ford deals with the issues of forbidden love, abandonment, loss and greif with dexterity. Certainly leaving plenty for the viewer to think about.
Thanks for reading
© MarcoG 2012
I've also create a page on Squidoo about this, which contains clips, including the trailer which is definately worth having a look at: http://www.squidoo.com/ASingleMan2009
I am a huge fan of Colin Firth (I even named one of my hamsters after him lol). Actually thats only half true! I loved him in Bridgit Jones however as an actor I was yet to see a film that he was as good in and so when this film came out and I heard it had Baftas to its name and so on I was so excited so I went out and bought a copy hot of the shelves which is actually most unlike me and I wait for prices to usually come down considerably before parting with my cash!
This film was released in 2010 and of course directed by Tom Ford who instantly isn't known (up until now) for his directing but hes actually a fashion designer by trade so as you can imagine this is a very stylish looking film!
Film Only Review:
The film centres around George Falconer (Colin Firth) a handsome, intellectual, English professor still grieving for his partner Jim (Matthew Goode) after 8 months of him dying in a car crash. Yep the film is about gay love, suppression after a war and not being able to be out and proud. We spend a day with George who wants to end his own life, watching him over the day, working, interacting with his slightly neurotic friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore), who has a history from way back with George and Kenny
(Nicholas Hoult) a guy from the university that seems to rather like George but who is much younger student. The day flickers between reality and George's hurt and pain, how he met Jim to how he feels without him and with lots of dream sequences to put us in the picture to how their love was.
The big question is does George end his life or learn the value of it in a day. Of course I'm not telling, if your interested you have to watch it!
Tom ford being a gay man himself directs this film with kit gloves and presents it in a visually enthralling way. Colin is believable, the wonderful Julienne Moore excels in this film for me as the slightly mad Charlie afraid of getting of old and loving George deeply and with her own issues. Matthew Goode who plays Colin's partner Jim plays the more light hearted younger male lead in this perfectly and the whole story is sensitively portrayed. We get Colin's first male kiss in this film but it isn't in your face a gay story, this is one about love and loss and actually rated a 12 film.
I was impressed with the 60's music, the continuation of the film being so smooth and the moral of the story....Who wants to live a lie?!
However for me this story was a little bland and predictable really, well kind of. I can't quibble with the beauty of the movie and the acting was superb, I sat glued watching Colin for the 99 minutes the film ran but the predictable ending spoilt it somewhat for me and it lacked a bit of omph and grit I would have appreciated.
Not a bad film to watch one rainy Sunday afternoon but seriously BAFTA'S? I'm not convinced that it won on story alone but maybe cos there was no other competition that year! lol
There are times that I watch a film and find, by the end, that I have nothing to say and very little to think. I had this feeling on finishing A Single Man. It's not that I am apathetic or unappreciative. In fact, when a film disappoints, it doesn't take me a lot of effort to spit feathered words of derision. But when a film is decent but unremarkable, it is very hard to know what to do about it.
What makes A Single Man good? It is directed by a fashion designer turned director and the fascination with aesthetics is there for all to see. Many reviewers have complained about the pretensions of the film. Certainly, it struck my mind that a man so depressed with existence that he is hoping to end it all should be so concerned about dressing nattily and polishing his gleaming shoes. It seems as if the director's predilection for fine fashion and aesthetic perfection are force fed into this tale.
Yet, the story and Colin Firth's acting as the depressed single man transcends the obvious materialist pretensions of the director. In fact, the hyper-aesthetic mien of the film gives it an otherworldly atmosphere. There is something about the luxury brands on show, the neatly folded piles of white towels and so on which emphasises Firth's character's loneliness. Everything is so ordered and perfect, even Firth himself, it as if the world of luxury brand adverts have trapped human inhabitants. The captives have no choice but to go along with the vanity of it all but within their perfect suits, they are wasting away.
I don't know if the director intended it, but the film undermines the splendour of its aesthetics. The flashbacks of Firth's lost relationship (heightened in colour) with Matthew Goode's character pales the symmetry of the present. The audience is left believing in love over material mastery. The film is far from a glorified advert, though visually that is what is presented.
Yet, for all this subversive quality, the film doesn't go that far. Firth is highly plausible as a repressed man. But, I didn't believe that he was suicidal. In an attempt to bring light on the affair, Firth is made to approach the actual method of suicide quite playfully - even, funnily. Yet, this only detracts further from the realism of the piece. Yes, Firth is repressed, depressed, nihilistic but that terrible impulse that would put him over the edge - it just was not evident.
The final section of the film concerns Firth's budding and equivocal friendship with a young student. The equivocality of their relationship (platonic or not?) is done well but, it is only suspense. Suspense and intrigue are all well and good but Firth is meant to be a man facing existential self-obliteration and the film needed to recognise and resolve this. Instead, it becomes suggestive and vague. Firth's U-turn barely ripples his facial skin and the audience is left none the wiser as to the true depths of suffering of a single man.
Star- Colin Firth
Directed - Tom Ford
"Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty"
'Tired and emotional' is paper speak for being seen drunk and disorderly out in public, whereas a 'confirmed bachelor' means homosexual and 'out', Colin Firth brave enough to kiss the boys on screen for first time director Tom Ford here, the man behind the lens a confirmed bachelor himself, a gay and proud vanity project if there ever was. Firth, of course, is extremely heterosexual and became very famous for getting out of a pond in a wet shirt and britches, to me basic science when water meets cotton so not that impressive, but to millions of middle-aged females a totally unforgettable orgasmic moment in cinema. To this day I'm still confused why. I look just as good when I jump in the pond in the local park but the girls don't go weak at the knees for me.
Firth, half a good public school short of a Hugh Grant (these two taking over from John Hurt and Sir Ian McKellan as the international luvies), plays himself in every movie, of course, only the occasional sideburns applied in his cannon of work when he is in the Merchant Ivory 'method mood', not one to stretch himself. Grant, of course, just plays himself very badly in everything he does. But both have been getting away with that for too long. Women of a certain age and Americans seem to love all that posh Brit stuff and so the scripts just keep coming. But for Firth he has stepped up a gear in this one, earning himself a Best Actor BAFTA, his performance the only enjoyable bit in the film, very much an "actors" movie. But it didn't stop there for Mr Darcy, now hot tip to win the Best Actor Oscar for The Kings Speech. The gentleman of British cinema has arrived.
Colin Firth ... George
Julianne Moore ... Charley
Nicholas Hoult ... Kenny
Matthew Goode ... Jim
Jon Kortajarena ... Carlos
Paulette Lamori ... Alva
Ryan Simpkins ... Jennifer Strunk
Its 1960s America and Englishman abroad George Falconer (Colin Firth), a handsome middle-aged professor at a prominent University on the liberal West Coast, is still in the closet and living a double life. Through a dream sequence we learn he has recently lost his partner Jim (Matthew Goode) of 16 years and still struggling to cope some 8 months on from the death, waking up in a cold sweat full of remorse every morning. On the outside Falconer seems to have everything but clearly has nothing left inside of him, his beautiful house and lifestyle just decoration now. Sometimes people just don't get over it.
George: "It takes time in the morning for me to become George, time to adjust to what is expected of George and how he is to behave. By the time I have dressed and put the final layer of polish on the now slightly stiff but quite perfect George I know fully what part I'm supposed to play".
Through constant flashback we discover how they met and how they lived and loved, panic attacks and pills getting him through the day now, only his best friend Charley (Julianne Moore) a shoulder to cry on. Its made quite clear early on in the film he wants to kill himself and he lives everyday as his last, savoring the beauty and the moment as he longs to meet Jim in the next world, his students none the wiser of his pain. He preaches his liberal left wing politics and ideals to his classes yet practices the freedoms of none of them, a very organized and immaculate conservative man deep down afraid to live again.
George: [last lines; voiceover] A few times in my life I've had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.
So enter Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), a beautiful young undergraduate, who disregards the conventional boundaries of student-professor discussion and explores his own sexuality bye teasing the stuffy professor, on and off campus. Through the new found liberation of his impending death he also allows his guard down for a flirtatious encounter with a gay Latino man at a convenience store and drunkenly expunging his feelings on Charley, Falconer fully intending to enjoy his last day on Earth if it kills him. But can the temptations of the forbidden younger flesh make him want to live again?
Although based around real life intellectuals of the day, this film feels part autobiographical in some way, even though Ford won't admit it. With the tragic death of fellow gay fashion designer Alexander McQueen this delves into that world of living a lie and how tough it must be if you don't actually want to be gay, cruelly dumped into this sexual underworld because your genes lost the toss. I don't think I could deal with it and so no surprise suicide rates are so high in gay man. I suppose the only attraction of being homosexual has to be this unique boarding card into the only non class based group in society, the huddled masses from all social classes drawn together in their own private club.
The film narrative takes place over a single day and very much an 'actors' showcase, this 100% about Firths performance, the erudite narration helping you come out of the other side of a film that has no real narrative. The impeccably British actor was apparently reticent to play the role and only talked around by Ford when Firths agent persuaded him to read the intelligent script. The perfectionist Ford wanted to make and finance a film like he cut a $400 suit, even though there are one or two gay clichés they sneak in, the none more so than gay sailor ( in full uniform) at the sailors bar pick up scene, maybe Fords gay fantasy moment.
As you would expect it's an incredibly visual film, Ford making everything beautiful, nor room for an ugly frame in his movie. To achieve that he employed the guy who did the equally stylish Mad Men TV series to create the screenplay here, this from another era of filmmaking. Some say the only reason the extremely over-rated Mad Men got made was to get free advertising for cigarettes by having everyone smoke in the show, redefining that link between men's men and cigarettes. With an equally lavish soundtrack of wailing violins and opera music (presumably what Ford eats his meals to) there is no let up on the attention to detail, especially the homoerotica. But for all that show the film is only about Firth and all rather bland and after the 50th close up of Mr Darcy's immaculate suit and handkerchiefs it does get rather dull. But the extra buss from the BAFTA win returned it a healthy profit from its $7 million budget, clearing $17m to date, and so deemed a hit. One for the purist only.
The times - "Offers a raw view of the gay experience that has nothing to do with sex"
The Los Angles Times - "The movie wasn't so much directed as it was designed".
Film review Magazine - "Elegant and stylish, this is more of a showpiece for style than an emotional journey,
with fashion-designer turned film director Tom Ford overwhelming Colin Firth's performance of a bereft man with some impeccably beautiful but detached imagery".
Imdb.com - 7.6/10 (17, 564 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 85% approval rate
Metacritic.com - 76% approval rating
This is a beautiful film and a remarkable directorial debut from the fashionista Tom Ford, it is thoughtful, visually stunning and melancholy without being too heavy.
The film is set in the 1960's and follows Professor George Falconer (Firth) a gay school teacher as he comes to terms with the death of his partner, he works through one last day, contemplating killing himself to be with his beloved partner.
As George contemplates his end, a number of small events affirm to him how wonderful life really is and how lucky we are, as he spends time with students, especially one who seems to have more feeling for him than a student would generally for a teacher (Nick Hoult), his friend Charlie (Julianne Moore) and sees the world for what it really is.
The film is beautiful, it is shot like a 90 minute commercial, the close are immaculate, the music perfectly encapsulates the utter sadness and hope of the film, Ford has done a wonderful job here in making a memorable debut, however Colin Firth stands out as a man filled with hopelessness and doubt whose sadness gradually evolves into something more beautiful.
The film ends in a way that is satisfying and yet the film still leaves an element of doubt for me, which I still haven't resolved. It is a very good film, but perhaps not quite as good as the oscar hype indicated.
This is a film for people who love dialogue, great acting and wonderful cinematography, it is less than 90 minutes long and is a snip at £5.49 from Amazon.
Colin Firth ... Prof. George Falconer
Julianne Moore ... Charley
Nicholas Hoult ...Kenny Potter
Matthew Goode ... Jim
Jon Kortajarena ... Carlos
Paulette Lamori ... Alva
Ryan Simpkins ... Jennifer Strunk
Ginnifer Goodwin ... Mrs. Strunk
Teddy Sears ... Mr. Strunk
Paul Butler ... Christopher Strunk
Aaron Sanders ... Tom Strunk
I was pretty keen on seeing A Single Man. Mr Neenaw wasn't too sure, but then he heard rave reviews from both an actor and a builder - so it seemed like a pretty good bet for anyone!
We weren't disappointed. The film remains one of the best I've seen all year. I expected a great performance from Colin Firth - he's a fine, unshowy actor, and is simply brilliant as a gay, English college professor in Los Angeles, unable to overcome the death of his partner, and contemplating suicide.
This may sound a bit grim, and Firth's grief is at times unbearably heartbreaking, but it's also often a bright, funny film, and is ultimately hugely uplifting. Julianne Moore, who can be a bit patchy, is also great as his old friend Charley. And Nicholas Hoult is proving he's a really promising actor in the difficult role as one of Firth's students with ambiguous intentions. He could easily have been too flippant, brash or coy but hits the right note (and a pretty good accent too as he's playing an American). I'm too old for Skins, so the last time I saw Hoult in anything was About a Boy - he's changed!
You get the feeling that fashion designer Tom Ford was expected to fail as a director - he would produce something beautiful and stylish, but pretty shallow. On the contrary. While he's captured '60s Los Angeles beautifully and the film looks fantastic - yet it's the substance that triumphs over the style. A film of beauty and emotional depth. See it.
I went to see A Single Man at the pictures simply because it starred Colin Firth, who I really like. I didn't know anything about the film at all other than that it was about a man grieving the death of his partner. I was completely blown away by what I saw.
The film covers a day in the life of George Falconer (Firth), a college professor in LA, who has made a decision to end his life after being unable to cope with the death of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode). Over the course of the day, George encounters different people including his long-time friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult); these encounters test his resolve. Will George be persuaded to live, or will he go ahead with his decision?
The film was directed by Tom Ford, who is apparently a fashion designer. If I had known this before I saw the film I might have been tempted to dismiss it before seeing it, as style without substance, however I would have been completely wrong. The film is very stylised, with artistic shots and scenes (especially the dream sequence in the beginning), but these only serve to bring out the real depth of the film.
The performances were excellent all round. Colin Firth gives a beautifully nuanced, understated performance, conveying profound emotions in simple movements and looks. The moment in flashback in which he is told of Jim's death is one of these. I always thought he was a good actor but in this he is incredible.
Matthew Goode was excellent as George's lover Jim. In the flashback scenes he is shown to be the more lighthearted, positive person in the relationship and these scenes really convey how much George needed Jim. Nicholas Hoult, who plays the young student Kenny, is great too. Julianne Moore, as George's friend Charley, also gives a fab performance and shows herself to be quite a tragic character in her own right, as well as being a supporting player in George's story.
The ending is perhaps slightly predictable given the rest of the film, but despite this it is incredibly moving. The film could easily have descended into sentimental melodrama or farce but the understated acting and stylised cinematography prevented this.
Once the film was over and the credits rolled, everyone in the theatre remained sitting in silence for a good few minutes - that was how powerful it was. I couldn't recommend this film enough: I don't think it is showing in cinemas any more but I strongly suggest you rent it on DVD. Absolutely brilliant.
note: also appears on my film review website, TheFilmBlogger.com
Alongside a depressingly long list of films snubbed for a Best Picture Oscar nomination in favour of The Blind Side, including (500) Days of Summer, Crazy Heart, The Messenger, and The Road is the masterful character drama A Single Man. Superbly played by Colin Firth in his career-best performance, this is the role that demonstrates like no other his incredible ability to slink into the shoes of extremely complex individuals.
A Single Man takes place in early 1960s Los Angeles, revolving around George Falconer (Firth), a British college professor who cannot shake his all-consuming grief following the sudden death of his lover, Jim (Matthew Goode), and resolves to end his life before the day is out. Through three interactions - with an old friend (Julianne Moore), a Spanish male prostitute (Jon Kortajarena), and an idealistic young pupil (Skins star Nicholas Hoult) - George attempts to find a way to temper his grief before it is too late. Director Tom Ford takes us on an extraordinary existential journey that cleverly captures the essence of the French New Wave, while featuring, in Firth's exceptional performance, one of the most nuanced and universally relatable portrayals of a homosexual in recent cinema history.
Through several opening scenes, Ford does well not to skirt around awkward exposition, such as when George learns that he isn't invited to Jim's funeral. Rooted well within the historical context of a pre-counter cultural upheaval, and combined with some gorgeous glimpses of George's reverie, it is painfully, literally clear that George wants nothing more than to "lie down" next to his dead lover. Content not to allow Firth the easy way out through mere floods of tears, Ford also takes a pleasantly unusual approach to the subject of bereavement, reconfiguring it through a rare "queer gaze", most startlingly when George spies on the heterosexual family next door, and imagines how grand their life must be.
Film critic Laura Mulvey has written at great length about the male gaze; how women are - in a field primarily written and directed by men - subjugated through a lens with dominantly male, heterosexual aspirations and values. However, Ford inverts this premise entirely, with lingering shots on glistening, robust male bodies depicting a very different male gaze in a unique, extremely well crafted manner.
While fashion designer Ford may not be the first name to pop into your head when you think of an expertly-crafted character piece, his contribution to the film is nothing short of exemplary; embossing the film in poetic, yet skilfully unpretentious cinematography, Ford frequently washes the colour out of the picture to reflect George's drained view of life, before pumping it full of vivid scarlet when he chances upon something beautiful, like a flower. While unsubtle, the film doesn't suffer from over-direction like other attempts by aestheticists to break into the film industry (such as Tarsem's The Fall), most obviously because this is a film with real, gut-punching substance.
While Firth rightly dominates at front and centre, Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult particularly add well-roundedness to proceedings; Moore nails the British accent, and is most interesting when admitting that she views homosexual relationships as less than heterosexual ones, while Hoult, as representative of the youthful optimism now missing in George's life, fits the part like a glove and manages a staggeringly convincing American accent. This isn't to forget the smaller contributions either; Goode pitches the sensitivity of his role just right, and Kortajarena, who chews through dialogue with Firth over a gorgeous background of pink, smog-filled L.A. air, is also stellar.
For its moments of optimism, though, it never escapes the grim reality of the situation, that George is a terminally lonely, heartbroken man, whose loss cannot be substituted with sex, drugs, or alcohol. Perhaps most disturbing is how banal George's preparations for suicide are, for he carefully prepares letters, lays out what he wants to wear at his funeral, and even leaves important items such as keys ready for whoever is to find him. Indeed, while the film concedes that death is in all of our futures, its astoundingly tense final reel finds dignity and poetry in what could, in the wrong hands, be a maudlin and overly dreary scenario.
For all of its visual splendour and thematic nuance, the film absolutely belongs to the brilliant Firth, whose quiet downward spiral is transfixing, combining the contemplative poetry of American Beauty with a heartbreaking character study reminiscent of The Wrestler. Thanks to an Earth-shattering performance from Firth, combined with arresting visuals and great supporting work, A Single Man is a heart-rending but richly rewarding and supremely touching drama.
Tom Ford, the world-renowned fashion designer most famous for fishing Gucci out of bankruptcy, steps behind the camera for the first time to create a work of art, beauty and nostalgia. Pre-conceptions that can usually arise about a first-time director who used to be a fashion designer - beautiful costumes, sumptuous music, overdone visuals, good-looking actors - do make their standard appearances but with "A Single Man," Ford goes a step further, exploring social division, prejudice and solitude.
Told from our leading protagonist's point of view, George (Colin Firth), an English professor in Los Angeles, is planning to commit suicide after realising that with the death of his lover Jim (Matthew Goode), his life is not worth living anymore. He has a gun prepared, has written all the goodbye letters, and has sorted out his finances. All he needs to do is to get through the day. Teach his class, have dinner with his close and possibly only friend Charley, (Julianne Moore) and then it's goodbye cruel world.
But not everything goes quite according to George's perfectly laid-out plan. An intrigued student Kenny (the all grown-up Nicholas Hoult from "About a Boy") takes peculiar interest in George, an attraction that seems to involve fascination for both academia and sex, and this leads to several, lengthy discussions about life and its surrounding moralities. He has curious encounters with a male prostitute Carlos (model Jon Kortajarena) and his neighbours that make him question his decision to end his life.
George is alone, living as an outcast and Ford makes sure that we see this in as many different ways as possible. He's an English man living in America, he's all alone in an empty glass house and he's a gay man living in the 60's. Firth, in the role of his lifetime, gives a magnetic performance and does not falter for one minute. He gives a quiet, yet subtly powerful performance perfectly reflecting the character's on-going grief and frustration towards his empty life that seems to have no hopeful future. The awards buzz is certainly well-deserved and if it weren't for Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart," he should be winning a lot of them.
The supporting cast also does an equally phenomenal job. Moore, who for some reason didn't get a lot of Best Supporting Actress recognition, is on faultless form as the sad, alcoholic loner who is so miserable that she considers having a fling with George who she knows is gay. She tries to mask her fear and worry with endless booze, perfectly decorated house and heavy make-up but in the end nothing lasts forever and she's back to her depressed self. Moore captures the struggles and weaknesses of her character and keeps up flawless chemistry with Firth. Goode finally lands a role where he can put his good looks to fine use as George's young dead lover. George's flashbacks including Jim show how happy and content our protagonist was as a result of this one man and we can all understand why. Their scenes are intimate, sweet and at times, quite comical. Hoult, a dedicated student full of talking points, intelligent views and a genuine interest towards George, has a young, fresh charm that sets a clear contrast between Hoult's and Firth's characters.
Ford dazzles us with his confidence in using various visual techniques. His bold use of colours showing sharp contrast shows both the grim, grey 60's, as well as the more detailed, fashionable interiors and atmosphere of the more flamboyant, fun-loving characters. His frequent use of zoom-ins skillfully adds something more erotic and intimate to the narrative. Combine that with some slow-motion filming and the effect is doubled. Does he rely on this too much? Perhaps. But this certainly isn't all style and no substance.
"A Single Man" may sound like a complete downer, but under Ford's steady, beautiful direction and anchored by strong performances from the cast, this goes beyond the sad, tear-jerking message of loss and tragedy into something more meaningful, exploring life and its worth. An emotionally alive picture from an ensemble of artistic talent, this moving experience should not be missed.