(director/writer: Tom Ford; screenwriters: David Scearce/based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood; cinematographer: Eduard Grau; editor: Joan Sobel; music: Abel Korzeniowski; cast: Colin Firth (George Falconer), Julianne Moore (Charley), Matthew Goode (Jim), Nicholas Hoult (Kenny Potter), Jon Kortajarena (Carlos); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Ford/Chris Weitz/Andrew Miano/Robert Salerno; Weinstein Company; 2009)

True to the director’s passion for fashion, Firth’s wardrobe is an example of sartorial splendor.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time director Tom Ford, a fashion designer and former Gucci creative head, has done a good job capturing the period details of the early sixties (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and presenting the visuals and the emotional doings of the mournful 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood with style and intelligence (the novel is considered a seminal work in modern gay literature); Ford cowrote A Single Man with David Scearce. Colin Firth, the titled single man, gives a superb performance as the angst-ridden suicidal middle-aged George, a wealthy gay British literature professor living in 1962 in LA. George, after dreaming his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) died in a car accident, receives a call from a family member that indeed his handsome architect lover of the last 16 years died in a car accident on a slippery snowy road while back in his Colorado hometown.

The film chronicles George’s day after he hears the sad news early in the morning and goes into a deep state of mourning, as he recalls memories he shared with his lover (through periodic flashbacks) and decides to go through the routines of the day and then put a pistol in his throat to end his misery. We catch the serious-minded prof in class delivering a talk on an Aldous Huxley novel to a bored class, being flirted with by his curious mescaline taking student Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult), resisting the flirtations of hunky and alluring Spanish street hustler Carlos (Jon Kortajarena), making time for a home visit to his close lady friend divorcee–his fellow British expat and lonely alcoholic Charley (Julianne Moore), petting a dog with much love he meets in the street that reminds him of Jim’s terrier, and stopping off at a gun shop to buy bullets.

The film brings some melodramatic moments that are not in the book, and some work while others seem unnecessarily distracting (like too many shots of the gun and that pretentious arty opening scene of a nude Firth tossing about in a bottomless sea). But these flaws are removed by Firth’s sympathetically moving nuanced performance, that lets us entertain what the experience of being a liberated gay in the sixties might have been like.

True to the director’s passion for fashion, Firth’s wardrobe is an example of sartorial splendor.Despite looking like a commercial for clothes, the arty tearjerker surprisingly remains poignant as a meditation on grief for a vulnerable man whose sincere humanistic emotions are universal.

A Single Man