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A Single Man

USA 2009
Directed by
Tom Ford
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Single Man, A

Synopsis: George Falconer (Colin Firth) is a 52-year-old British college professor working in LA in 1962. He has just suffered the loss of his long-time partner Jim (Matthew Goode), but in an era where homosexuality is in the closet, he must keep much of his grief bottled up. We follow George through the course of one day, as he flashes back to his times with Jim and struggles to see if there is meaning now in his lonely life. He seeks refuge in his friendship with Charley (Julianne Moore), while one of his students Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) seems to be trailing George’s every move.

Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man is a beautiful and sad film. One of the most heartbreaking scenes is when George, who is not accepted as part of Jim’s family is excluded from Jim’s funeral. It is a timely reminder of how recently things have been dire for gays. But this film transcends its gay theme and addresses an issue central to all humans – that of loss, profound grief, and meaning in life. The entire story is suffused with a deep sadness, accentuated by the beautiful award-winning score by Abel Korzeniowski.

Firth seems to have either won or been nominated for at least a dozen Best Actor awards for this role, and we eagerly await the outcome of his Oscar nomination. Firth can be mediocre but when he shines he’s wonderful. Here he shines, giving one of the most compassionate and heart-rending performances I’ve seen. His George is initially negative, compulsive, and anal-retentive. He is also highly articulate, as he delivers a lecture to his students on minorities, threats and fear. It is one of those rare film speeches that gives you great food for reflection in your own life. By comparison Jim is a really wholesome all-American boy – uncomplicated and happy. Goode is a great foil for Firth. The two work beautifully together, and to Fords’ credit he eschews any salacious sex scenes, content with a few kisses and a sense of the true compatibility and love shared by these two men.

Julianne Moore is one of my favourite actors, and she doesn’t disappoint here as the gin-swilling Charley, who’s always had a bit of a “thing” for George, her long-standing friend. There’s a marvellous scene where Charley and George share a meal and a dance together – again sadness and the disappointments of life pervade.

Ford, here making his debut as a director, is a leading fashion designer and so the film with its authentic-looking 60s style is visually pleasurable, a quality enhanced by several iconic 60s songs that typify the era. Some may find the film slow, even somewhat inert, but it is rich with evocative moments and deals with something we all, sooner or later have to confront, the loss of a loved one and how to keep going in the face of it all.




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