Directed by Tom Ford
Starring – Colin Firth, Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode
After the sudden death of his lover, George (Colin Firth), struggles to come to terms with the incident and spends his day to day life grief stricken and unable to get by. Planning his suicide George uses his last day to set things straight and enjoy the simple things for the last time.
I bought this film on DVD a number of years ago but amazingly have only just got round to watching it relatively recently. It’s a touching film and one with a narrative so delicately planned and executed. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, the story of George is told in cinematic form through flashback and clever camera tricks to allow the audience to see his physical journey but also to see his internal thinking and emotions.
With a sensitive narrative subject explored, A Single Man relies on the performance of it’s central actor to carry the emotion of the film. As seen time and time again, Colin Firth is an actor with the ability to carry an incredible range of emotion and thus convince audience’s of his characters true feeling and situations. Firth plays the role of an English Professor at an American university during the 1960’s. What is revealed early on is his relationship with his male lover, Jim (Matthew Goode), and the tragic way in which it ends. During an era where homosexuality was not properly accepted, the tensions have already flared for him and is demonstrated in a flashback to a relative of Jim’s ringing to tell George of his passing. This sequence, despite being so early in the film, really displays Firth’s abilities within this role, showing so incredibly his characters shock and numbness before absolutely breaking down. There are moments like this all through the film that are so convincing and despite being heart wrenching, are really beautiful to watch.
It’s not just the acting that makes this film though but the partnership between the cinematography and acting that allows for these moments. In the above mentioned sequence the camera lingers for so long on Firth after the news is delivered that it feels uncomfortable. But it feels uncomfortable because we’re in a sense invading on a really sensitive and upsetting moment. You see Firth trying to hold it together before completely breaking down and the camera just doesn’t move away. The camera ends up showing you a human at their most vulnerable and it completely adds to the emotion of the film because it ultimately is a film based on a persons private feelings.
The cinematography also physically enhances the emotion of the film through more representational means. A Single Man follows a man who is on the brink of suicide, with the dull colouring of the scenes replicating his mood and feeling toward life. However, at points during the narrative we see glimpses of George enjoying life and being happy when colour suddenly fills the screen and the images become warmer. When this happens, the shots are generally proceeded by extreme close ups of the person that has evoked these emotions within George. The shots are generally close ups on that persons eyes to suggest an intimate connection with that person but occasionally it’s their mouths too or other aspects around him but ultimately it suggests to the audience an appreciation of the little things, as if he’s savouring every last moment.
I really enjoyed this film. It’s so touching and such a simple narrative but told in such an intriguing and beautiful way. It’s completely realistic and with the central character never directly expressing his feelings its so unique to see a film which can evoke a protagonists internal feelings as well as seeing their physical outside. The music is beautiful, the cinematography is stunning and the acting is absolutely spot on. Well worth a watch and a genuinely heart warming and heart breaking film.