This weekend, my friend Mo and I went out for dinner and a movie. We agreed on A Single Man, in part because the timing of the movie fit our schedules.
A Single Man is the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, and his departure from the fashion world is our gain when he decided to direct this movie.
The movie captures one emotion-packed day in the life of middle-aged college professor George Falconer. Colin Firth plays George, who, following the death of Jim, his long-time partner, has not allowed himself to live life. His grief is deeply visible, jumping from the screen into the viewer’s soul. We see the world mostly through George’s eyes, and there is no joy in that world.
George spends the day putting his affairs in order, buying bullets for his gun, clearing out his office. This is the day he will kill himself. Ironically, it is this day that he steps outside of his stupor and absorbs the details of the world around him.
Typical of me, I actually shed a tear in the reference to the dog. When Jim was killed in a car crash, the couple’s two terriers were with him. We see one dog’s body lying in a pool of blood beside Jim’s body, but the other dog is missing. In a later scene in the movie, George sees a terrier in a car, leans in and caresses the dog, smelling its head. (That’s what I do to my dogs, too). I could feel his pain.
The director’s attention to detail is on display as we watch George put his neatly laundered clothing (for his funeral service) together, with concise instructions that his tie be in a Windsor knot. Not wanting to make a mess, George struggles with precisely where he can perform the deed.
His last evening with his best friend Charley, played brilliantly by Julianne Moore, was painful in its beauty. We see Charley painstakingly applying her makeup through a single-eye close-up shot that allows you to travel deeper into her psyche as she instructs George to bring her a bottle of Tangueray. A middle-aged alcoholic herself, Charley desperately yearns for an unattainable love.
A conflicted and beautiful young male student, Kenny, (played by Nicholas Hoult) intrudes on George’s last day, making him at once inconvenienced and eventually relieved to allow this outsider in. The close-ups and sensuality of their encounters give us hope for George’s life.
This movie reeks of seductive beauty, and I was well aware that there was not an average-looking character in the entire film. (Hey, I’ve got no problem with eye-candy).
I found the movie to be at once disturbing and beautiful. Colin Firth, I am now an even bigger fan. Tom Ford, I cannot wait for your next piece of work.