13 December 2009

Review: "A Single Man"

Tom Ford is one of the world's foremost fashion designers, and he was once the creative director of my favourite label, Yves Saint Laurent. It has always been apparent that he is an artistic visionary and he has directed one of the year's finest films. A Single Man, written for the screen, produced and directed by Tom Ford, depicts one day in the life George Falconer, a gay college professor in the 1960s. The film stars Colin Firth, who gives a spellbinding performance. The film depends so much on his talent, especially in the many quiet scenes where dialogue is not needed. He deservedly won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival. The film is quiet and reserved, and its most emotional moments are in the silent scenes where George organizes his life while anticipating his own suicide. A Single Man features a mesmerizing performance by Julianne Moore as George's one-time love and best friend, but the film hinges on Colin Firth and his complete devotion to his character. George keeps his emotions hidden so deep inside that his pain unravels in his facial expressions. It is a film where it is more important to see with your eyes than to listen to the dialogue.

The film unfolds during a single day, November 30, 1962, and George has decided that he is ready to die. His lover of sixteen years, Jim (Matthew Goode), died in a car accident and George was asked not to attend the funeral -- it was for family only. Through a series of flashbacks we see how beautiful and fulfilling their relationship was, and how Jim's death has devastated George. He is an English professor at a small college in California, and he is not invested in his classes. This fact does not go unnoticed by his student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who awkwardly flirts with George after class. Charley (Julianne Moore) is alone and dependent on George, and pines for his love and affection. George is clearly depressed and throughout the entire film we struggle with our own emotions in regards to George's fate.

A Single Man is a great film, certainly one of the year's best, mostly due to the film's stunning visuals, which emphasize George's inner turmoil. This is especially evident during a conversation with Kenny when the scene seems grey and bleak when focused on George, but colourful and sunny when the camera is aimed at Kenny. It is exciting to watch how he interacts with Kenny, as he tries to evade his young student's advances. Julianne Moore is perfectly cast as Charley, a woman who desperately hopes that George will realize his true love for her. In a drunken rant she attacks George, showing that she is as empty inside as he is. Ginnifer Goodwin (from Big Love) has a small role as George's neighbour, and in one of the film's best scenes her young daughter helps us understand just how difficult it would have been to be gay in the 1960s. Colin Firth seems made for the role, he has created a character whose every word and motion seem so completely natural. A Single Man may have been made with the hard work of hundreds of people, but it is Colin Firth alone who left me captivated.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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