A Single Man
Directed By: Tom Ford
Screenplay By: Tom Ford
Based on the Novel by: Christopher Isherwood
MANY spoiler alerts, heads up.
George has decided to die today (I warned you!). The protagonist of this film, George (Colin Firth), is a handsome, polished and dapper man whose romantic soul has been mortally wounded by the death of his beloved Jim.
I absolutely loved Tom Ford’s directorial debut for its aesthetic genius – the style and art direction are understated and minimalist but executed so perfectly and with such a clear, consistent voice that they manage to pack a very solid punch. Tom Ford invites his audience to see the world through the crisp lines of George’s flawlessly tailored suits and the heavy, rich wood that covers every wall of his mod, 1960’s home.
But this movie accomplishes a lot more than being merely beautifully stylized (which of course is no mean feat), it also ambitiously tackles the prejudices against gay relationships that plagued the middle of the 20th century, and let’s face it, still persist today. George is unlike the stereotypical flaky, dotting, effeminate gay man that we’ve all grown so fond of on T.V. sitcoms. He is a romantic, witty, masculine and quiet man who had a very sincere, deep and mature connection with the lover he lost. Despite his committed, 16-year relationship with Jim, George doesn’t have the privileges that others take for granted: he isn’t invited to grieve with Jim’s family at the funeral; his redneck neighbours despise him and even his best friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore) calls his relationship with Jim a sham. But George puts on a brave face. Colin Firth’s portrayal of this tortured, thoughtful man, who despite everything has a great sense of humour and a strong mind, is refreshing after seeing the actor in one-too-many rom coms.
The film is set over the course of one day, which just so happens to be George’s last. Like any other day, George wakes up and goes to work. He’s an English professor and today he and his class are discussing prejudice and minorities in a Huxley novel. He tells his class that hatred towards minorities develops when people believe that a minority poses a threat. That threat may be real, but it is often an imagined threat. And if the minority group is an invisible minority, the fear people develop can become that much stronger. This poignant speech is very telling of American culture in that era – between communists and gay people, the average American had invisible enemies all over the place. Not unlike today.
This movie is stark and haunting, yet compellingly beautiful. In once scene, George looks out at a very pink sunset that he says is the result of smog, and the man he’s with says “sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty”. And though Tom Ford’s film is beautiful in each and every frame, George only finds vitality and beauty in a few special moments. Ford let’s his audience see the world as George does by using a grayish brown filter in most of the film except for a few select shots that are rich in saturated colour. These are the brief moments when George is inspired by the sight of something lovely – the red lips of his secretary, the orange trees and roses growing in Charlotte’s house, the tanned and perfectly sculpted naked upper-bodies of a pair of tennis players, and the bright patent leather shoes and cotton dresses of the adorable little girl across the street.
This powerful movie is a pleasure to watch, and will hopefully make headway in dispelling the ignorant, widespread fears of invisible minorities.