Colin Firth won a BAFTA a few days ago with his role as George Falconer in A Single Man. If you watch this film you’ll see why.
The first foray of Tom Ford, uber-fashion designer, into film is an intense and elegiac work about the nature of love, loneliness, repression and the small poignant moments in life. In A Single Man Firth plays an English professor living in Los Angeles who is trying to cope with the death of Jim, his partner of sixteen years. Jim’s family were not going to tell George of the death and did not permit him to attend the funeral, and George’s inability to publicly mourn his terrible broken heart leads him to decide to kill himself.
Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same name, the story starts from as the morning alarm goes off in his immaculate designer home, which provides no joy or comfort. We then watch as George gets his affairs in order before his planned suicide that evening. He says goodbye to his flighty friend Charley (played to perfection by Julianne Moore with a rich and indolent English accent), withdraws his insurance papers from his safety deposit box, makes an effort to compliment his secretary and housekeeper and lays out instructions as to what he will wear in his coffin.
These activities are all shadowed by a bleached-out shade of grey and his brief encounters with various people over the course of the day, including his intense student Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult of Skins fame), the pretty child next door and a Spanish gigolo are the only events that bring colour, literally, to his life.
Tom Ford’s background as a fashion designer particularly suited this film I thought because it is all about the nuances of details. Besides the distinctive use or lack of colour to mark sadness and light, Ford seemed particularly fond of extreme close-ups – of eyes, mouths, hands, cigarette ends. I guess all the little details that become distinct and noteworthy when you know you’re about to die.
[Spoiler alert] Not having read the book I didn’t know how the film would conclude but for some reason I didn’t expect the ending – I guess I was hoping that new love might relieve George from his grief and loneliness. As it was I came out of the cinema hugging RM tightly and being grateful that I was not alone.