A Single Man

It is not often when the look and minor details of a film convey a more substantial piece of the theme than anything said by the characters. A Single Man is one of those films. From filters to close-ups, director Tom Ford tells a story almost behind the scenes of what’s actually occurring onscreen.


Set in 1960s Los Angeles, George (Colin Firth) is coping with the untimely death of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode). He begins to get his affairs in order to prepare for his suicide as he struggles to get through his daily life as an English professor.

A Single Man is a heavy film, very heavy. You have to be in the right mindset to truly appreciate all that is happening in front of you. From the outset, you are made expertly aware that this is what a well-made film looks like. Everything is executed with precision and purpose to facilitate George’s progression. The most prevalent feature utilized is the camera filters.

When portraying the dark, dismal reality George has found himself in, the film uses a grey filter symbolizing the bleak outlook George has adapted. As he continues through his day and talks with people he encounters, a bright hue is cast on pieces of the scene in an effort to show George’s realization that there are things in the world still with the capability to shine. It’s a slight modification, but one, once noticed, that completely alters the complexion of the film.

Next, Ford continues personifying George’s thought process by using close-up shots. These shots range from lips, to eyes (multiple sets of eyes), to cigarettes and more to showcase the little things in life that George took for granted when he wasn’t determined to end his life. He is so depressed and void of emotion that these small moments and objects allow him to find some sense of solace and self-preservation. The filters and close-ups combine for an amazing and beautiful aesthetic that keeps you engaged until the very end.

Adding to the visuals, Firth gives his now-typical virtuoso performance in a semi-minimalist style. He conveys George’s deep anguish and heartache by accentuating the most important aspects of his lines. He finds a way to draw emotion from seemingly commonplace dialogue. The scene where George is trying to figure out the best position and placement for his death is quite telling of his character.

Firth’s biggest help comes in the forms of Goode and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), an interested student. Goode gets minimal screen time, but he develops a solid rapport with Firth in that time and the two make an increasingly convincing couple. Meanwhile, Hoult holds his own with Firth and, in many ways, draws even more from Firth in their scenes together. He has been popping up more and more in films, and I don’t see that changing.

Despite all this, there are two weak spots in A Single Man, however minor they are. Julianne Moore plays Charley, George’s former lover from London. I have nothing against Moore—actually I have enjoyed many of her films—but she wasn’t right for this role and didn’t bring anything to the table to improve the character.

The other quibble I have involved the final scenes. There is one scene in particular that would’ve made a spectacular ending, but missed out by one or two minutes. I won’t spoil anything, but just know that the actual final scene is good, but not as good as the penultimate scene. It would’ve been fitting and artistically appropriate for how the film played out.

As George learns, love is just another frivolous aspect of life’s nature. Ford and Firth bring an excellent film that everyone can enjoy, despite a slow speed and heavy connotations. Bring the right mindset and you will not be disappointed.

  1. Great review, I will give this film a look

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