A Single Man (12A)

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A Single Man.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Feb 9 2010

We tend to make a fuss of debutants. We celebrate their precocity. We excuse their naivety. But sometimes the word is misleading. Take Tom Ford. ‘A Single Man’ is the 48 year old’s first film, but can we really call a man who spent ten years as the creative director of Gucci a beginner? Couture is not cinema, but there are similarities. Both have a tendency to crush art with commerce. Both demand that an army of creatives – art directors, production designers, photographers and the rest – unite behind a vision that is sold ruthlessly to the public. So it’s worth remembering that Ford’s toolbag was already full to brimming when he embarked on his first film – though whether or not he knew how to use those tools is another thing entirely.

Christopher Isherwood’s short 1964 novel ‘A Single Man’ is a superb choice for a concise, intimate film. Its events are few, its emotional power is cumulative. The book visits one day in the life of George, a gay British expat and middle-aged literature teacher in 1962 Los Angeles. We learn gradually that George lost his younger partner, Jim, in a car crash and discover much later that this is a significant day for George, a slow reveal that gives the text a random, quotidian quality.

Ford turns the book on its head so that we know both these things from the start. But other than that, the book’s interior nature and sense of wandering remain in Ford’s delicate, moving film. We follow George (Colin Firth) closely, often alone, from morning to night. We watch as he gives a lesson on Aldous Huxley and join him on a drunken evening at the home of his soulmate and compatriot, Charlotte (Julianne Moore). Later, we’re with him during a late-night flirtation with a pupil, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). And, in flashback, we see snapshots of his earlier, happier life with Jim (Matthew Goode).

As a director, Ford manages to exude both extreme confidence and first-time nerves. Only a beginner would decide that the best way to add structure to a near-perfect story is to insert a gun from almost the very first scene. But the control and precision with which Ford tells his story helps us to ignore this choice and still trust his vision, which falls off the screen with an intoxicating fluidity, helped by evocative editing of sound and image and an increasingly affecting score by Abel Korzeniowski. The film looks gorgeous. Young Spanish DoP Eduard Gran, a graduate of the National Film and Television School, shoots on an old 35mm stock that gives the images a soft precision. Almost all the film is colour, but the colours tell a story themselves: Ford manipulates the film’s brightness so that it glows and darkens depending on George’s mood. Rather than coming across as a gimmick, this serves the emotional ebb and flow of the book well and helps to turn the literary into the cinematic.

Maybe the film is too pristine. In this world, dust doesn’t land, paint doesn’t peel and grass doesn’t grow. George’s black-and-white suit-and-tie combo is too perfect and his house is a modernist dream. His partner was an architect, we’re told. His director is a fashion designer, we’re thinking.

But nothing distracts from the empathy and understanding we have for George, and on that the film must live or die. Firth’s portrayal of a man repressing his grief while being unable to repress his instinct for love and for life is excellent and moving, while Ford’s balancing of depth and surface is precarious but ultimately winning.
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Feb 12, 2010

Duration:

101 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Tom Ford

Screenwriter:

Tom Ford

Cast:

Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:11
  • 4 star:9
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|40
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Sujit

Excellent movie; Firth and Moore pitching powerful performances. Yet the ending could have been worked upon - too abrupt, too cliched and unimaginative. It is as if all aging and single adult mourning the loss of their partner have one way out with no hope for a future.

bee redwood

Time, tempo, light and emotion well tailored and scored in this beautiful meditation on love and living and the search for meaning in their absence.

Robert Thornton

Excellent slow burner. What a refreshing change not to have the stereotype camp gay. Firth was excellent. Very much an art film with the music , colour and camera shots. Having watched "An Education" the night before, which was absolute tripe, it's nice to know there is still some well made films out there.

zzzzz

this is the most boring piece of nonsense i have ever seen. it's basically a 2 hour clothes advert (which are very nice BTW). I could not even walk out for fear of offending my gay friends who i imagined were having some homosexual enlightenment moment. (relieved to find out afterwards they were as bored as me. Maybe there is a reason this was originally a short story? At least it has a happy ending.

Sutton

Excellent film, stylishly shot and acted - great debut for Mr Ford. Go see..

anna

Boring boring boring. Love Colin but even his great performance didn't save the movie. What a disappointment.

critique

An interesting character study filmed in a very individualistic manner. Firth is charismatic and there are moments of beauty but one or two sequences drag.

milddavids

utter tosh, I didnt believe the firth character, the dialogue was wooden as was most of the acting, you get more wit pathos and humour in an average episode of Skins.

jazzy j

I loved the film. I cried at the beginning, I cried in the middle, I cried at the end; I felt such a wuss but the emotional angst got to me . The overwhelming grief of losing your lover, your life, everything you'd built up over years of togetherness and not being able to open up and be yourself in your pain, to have your whole life taken and not be able to say why or how it tears you apart. As a piece it was a beautifully crafted film, my only negative was in the last 5 minutes where it drifted into standard symbolism but was redeemed at the last by the mirroring of the opening sequence (which set me off crying again) Not a perfect film but wonderful and painful to watch, a visual torchsong which I would most certainly go see again .

jazzy j

I loved the film. I cried at the beginning, I cried in the middle, I cried at the end; I felt such a wuss but the emotional angst got to me . The overwhelming grief of losing your lover, your life, everything you'd built up over years of togetherness and not being able to open up and be yourself in your pain, to have your whole life taken and not be able to say why or how it tears you apart. As a piece it was a beautifully crafted film, my only negative was in the last 5 minutes where it drifted into standard symbolism but was redeemed at the last by the mirroring of the opening sequence (which set me off crying again) Not a perfect film but wonderful and painful to watch, a visual torchsong which I would most certainly go see again .

rick

Was really looking forward to this movie but oh boy was I disappointed! And bored! Yes Colin's performance saves the movie. I usually love Julianne but can't excuse the fact that she did a parody of AbFab here. How can one take this film seriously? The script is very very poor. Dialogues made me cringe most of the time - until I decided to laugh instead. The scene with the Spanish hooker at sunset was a monument to kitsch. And that musical score made me want to run.

shel

best film I've seen in at least a year - I had a smile of wonderment on my face throughout - it was beautiful and heartfelt and really touched me. Loved it. Yes it was all too perfect and clean to be real - but why do people criticise it here but accept a complete departure from reality in crap films like avatar?

shel

best film I've seen in at least a year - I had a smile of wonderment on my face throughout - it was beautiful and heartfelt and really touched me. Loved it. Yes it was all too perfect and clean to be real - but why do people criticise it here but accept a complete departure from reality in crap films like avatar?

usman khawaja

this is a poetic perspective on the crucial issue of bereavement and i felt really involved without being aware it was a homosexual love theme ,which is a triump for the maker as he realses his aim to show human isolation and loss of love in a harmony where visual style and philosophical dialogues enchant the senses and cerebrum . julianne moore is enchanting as the frustrated temptress and that quote about what is a substitute for real love just about clinches the whole issue of bisexuality in a nutshell . the operatic musical score just was magically used to enhance the visual wizardry ,and the aldous huxley book was a brilliant metaphor when shown in superlative shots with a handgun . colin firth is such a superb actor and his nuanced act from being solicited by young rent boys to being almost seduced by his own student is a revelation . the hysterical dinner scene between the bisexual man and a woman still in love with him is absolutely genius and makes this a must -see . addto that the great musical score and the quaint but ingenious closeups with clipped editing and you have an insightful study into human behaviour which is haunting in it's harmonious study of sexuality in contemporary era . last but not the least the shots of moore applying her makeup and than that camp dress and hairstyle are so aptly used to induce a luric mystical atmosphere which just about transports you in the mind of the characters as they discuss their life in a vainglorious moment of bitter truth .

Dicky

I felt this film was worthy of seeing twice - so did. Like TO, I rate this movie very highly. It's a good original story, excellent Oscar nomination level acting, and is superbly photographed and directed. (See my previous review last week.) I'm also told by the box office at the cinema I regularly attend, this film has been well attended at all performances.

Dicky

I felt this film was worthy of seeing twice - so did. Like TO, I rate this movie very highly. It's a good original story, excellent Oscar nomination level acting, and is superbly photographed and directed. (See my previous review last week.) I'm also told by the box office at the cinema I regularly attend, this film has been well attended at all performances.

Robert Conor O&#039;Gorman

Fear Tom Ford. A glossy magazine of a movie with admittedly a good performance by Firth but does anyone really buy that Firth's Character had left London after the war, his Lover was in the Navy and that California was as open as all that in the early 60's Bay of Pigs era. Ford rips off Godard, Gainsbourg, Roeg, Truffaut et al in his pursuit of fine looking imagery and there's no shame in that ( Tarantino hasn't an original thought in his head ) only a bit of substance was all that was needed to glue it together and it never materialised. Less Single, More Serious please.

david glowacki

Does the film live up to all it's great praise??Not really.It has good scenes and the film's premise of emptiness and inability to look into the future as a result of bereavement is sound.It's an American film,and therefore there is a mass of sentimental music.The story is too maudlin and romantic.Firth's acting range is too narrow for such a complex part.However Juliane Moore is a pure natural in her part.The film is ultimately stilted and dry,but not without having it's moments.Some of the dialogue made me cringe,particularly the scenes with the young male student.Sentimental music is about 60% of the film and acting about 40% comment you type in this box will appear on the site

Steve

Possibly the most boring film I have ever seen, in fact I fell asleep at one point! There is very little plot and no action, we kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. We saw Invicta last week and the contrast between the two films is marked, Invicta was excellent but I am afraid A Single Man is just pretentious twaddle. One to avoid!

Paul

whoops, I didn't score the film, it's an average two (for effort Colin) on the basis that the plot was unconvincing and cliched, by Tom Ford for Tom Ford.

Evie

The beautiful musical score to this film deserves a mention and its exquisite sadness reminded me of the soundtrack to 'In the Mood for Love'. Colin fIrth is great and nicholas hoult gives his most grown up performance to date.

Gillian

I am so glad people are being postive about this film I have seen cilps on youtube and I know I am now going to enjoy Colin Firth giving his best as always, ordered the book and look forward to reading it I am giving Colin firth my full support with this movie and the other members of the cast to

Gillian

I am so glad people are being postive about this film I have seen cilps on youtube and I know I am now going to enjoy Colin Firth giving his best as always, ordered the book and look forward to reading it I am giving Colin firth my full support with this movie and the other members of the cast to

grumpycreative

I think that anybody who is critical of this film and it's director is either jealous of multitalented creatives or ignorant as to what makes for cinematic perfection. I thought the entire piece was spotless. The audience I saw A Single Man with at the Chelsea Cinema were almost unanimous in their belief that this was a seminal work for Colin Firth and a masterpiece for Tom Ford. It is very rare that I get out of bed the next morning to have a movie still fully alive in my head and continuing to review the plot and characters in such detail.

grumpycreative

I think that anybody who is critical of this film and it's director is either jealous of multitalented creatives or ignorant as to what makes for cinematic perfection. I thought the entire piece was spotless. The audience I saw A Single Man with at the Chelsea Cinema were almost unanimous in their belief that this was a seminal work for Colin Firth and a masterpiece for Tom Ford. It is very rare that I get out of bed the next morning to have a movie still fully alive in my head and continuing to review the plot and characters in such detail.

Gillian

I have wanted to see A Singleman since hearing of it I am a big fan of Colin Firth's film, so wouldn't you believe it, my two Local cinema's have decided not to show it, I live in Dundee and I am very disapointed. I follow most of his films but they have stopped me seeing this one, I will now have to wait months for the dvd. its not fair really, I hope he gets an Oscar, I am glad the film got the applause it deserved shame on you Odeon and Cineworld in dunee from a devoted Colin firth Fan

Gillian

I have wanted to see A Singleman since hearing of it I am a big fan of Colin Firth's film, so wouldn't you believe it, my two Local cinema's have decided not to show it, I live in Dundee and I am very disapointed. I follow most of his films but they have stopped me seeing this one, I will now have to wait months for the dvd. its not fair really, I hope he gets an Oscar, I am glad the film got the applause it deserved shame on you Odeon and Cineworld in dunee from a devoted Colin firth Fan

Godfrey Hamilton

I'm fascinated to see that DaveCalhoun, who penned the original TO review to which I referred in my first post (see two posts down from Dicky's excellent appraisal) has moderated his critical language in his current review. Dare I hope my objection gave Mr Calhoun pause, that he has changedhis tone because of somehting I said (insert smiley face here)?

Godfrey Hamilton

I'm fascinated to see that DaveCalhoun, who penned the original TO review to which I referred in my first post (see two posts down from Dicky's excellent appraisal) has moderated his critical language in his current review. Dare I hope my objection gave Mr Calhoun pause, that he has changedhis tone because of somehting I said (insert smiley face here)?

Dicky

I have the advantage that I saw “A Single Man� at the BFI/London Film Festival in October. There wasn’t a spare seat to be had - clearly word had got around. Immaculately dressed, Tom Ford and Colin Firth were there in person to briefly introduce the film. You knew you were in for a cinematic treat. . Can a film be “perfect�? Personally, I think so. Certainly, enough films are released with gapping holes in their story lines, poor acting, or are so full of clichés you desperately want to walk out of the cinema, if only you weren’t stuck right in the middle of a row with people left and right. I think “A Single Man� is perfect. The story is superbly interpreted, and clearly wasn’t written back in the 60’s to be a typically flawed latter day Hollywood blockbuster. The manner in which the story is played out, occasionally going backwards then forwards, is clever - never too much information, just enough - allowing you to piece the day and George’s relationships together. The editing of this film is very, very smart. Sitting fairly far back, I was aware no one fidgeted. It would seem everyone else was as enthralled with this visual feast as I was. . As TO’s Dave Calhoun says, this is the story of a man, whose long-term partner tragically dies alone after an accident. The film sees a snapshot of just one day. The acting is superb - Colin Firth, Matthew Goode, and Julianne Moore were completely convincing. Curiously, I think one of Julianne Moore’s previous best films is “The Hours�, also a film set in a single day. Much has been made of this being Tom Ford’s first film – ignore that. This is a good film – and Colin Firth’s acting warrants his Oscar nomination. . It’s the attention to detail of ASM that I admire. All too often scriptwriters and directors assume that the audience won’t be astute enough to spot holes in the story being told. Tom Ford clearly has an eye for detail, and I’m hoping will go on to direct many more films. I could handle more perfection. . I can only say, “Go and see it�. It’s rare you get applause at the end of a film, but that’s what happened at the performance of “A Single Man� I attended. I think that speaks for itself.

Dicky

I have the advantage that I saw “A Single Man� at the BFI/London Film Festival in October. There wasn’t a spare seat to be had - clearly word had got around. Immaculately dressed, Tom Ford and Colin Firth were there in person to briefly introduce the film. You knew you were in for a cinematic treat. . Can a film be “perfect�? Personally, I think so. Certainly, enough films are released with gapping holes in their story lines, poor acting, or are so full of clichés you desperately want to walk out of the cinema, if only you weren’t stuck right in the middle of a row with people left and right. I think “A Single Man� is perfect. The story is superbly interpreted, and clearly wasn’t written back in the 60’s to be a typically flawed latter day Hollywood blockbuster. The manner in which the story is played out, occasionally going backwards then forwards, is clever - never too much information, just enough - allowing you to piece the day and George’s relationships together. The editing of this film is very, very smart. Sitting fairly far back, I was aware no one fidgeted. It would seem everyone else was as enthralled with this visual feast as I was. . As TO’s Dave Calhoun says, this is the story of a man, whose long-term partner tragically dies alone after an accident. The film sees a snapshot of just one day. The acting is superb - Colin Firth, Matthew Goode, and Julianne Moore were completely convincing. Curiously, I think one of Julianne Moore’s previous best films is “The Hours�, also a film set in a single day. Much has been made of this being Tom Ford’s first film – ignore that. This is a good film – and Colin Firth’s acting warrants his Oscar nomination. . It’s the attention to detail of ASM that I admire. All too often scriptwriters and directors assume that the audience won’t be astute enough to spot holes in the story being told. Tom Ford clearly has an eye for detail, and I’m hoping will go on to direct many more films. I could handle more perfection. . I can only say, “Go and see it�. It’s rare you get applause at the end of a film, but that’s what happened at the performance of “A Single Man� I attended. I think that speaks for itself.

janie

I saw this film on a recent visit to the US and I can't wait to see it again when it opens in the UK. Substance with style, plus some of the best performances you can hope to see on screen. And all the actors are beautiful, in the true sense. It's all in the eyes.

janie

I saw this film on a recent visit to the US and I can't wait to see it again when it opens in the UK. Substance with style, plus some of the best performances you can hope to see on screen. And all the actors are beautiful, in the true sense. It's all in the eyes.

Godfrey Hamilton

Dave Calhoun thinks the movie drools " all over its own surface"? That's just a self-consciously clever bit of naff arch-bitchiness. What on earth do you make of 'Mad Men', which must be a Niagara of salivary saturation by your standards? The set dec is given the same meticulous, ordered attention that George gives to his own life, and no more self-reflexively drools over itself than George drools over the precise directions he leaves when laying out his burial attire ("Tie in windsor knot'). A magical, deeply moving film, with a bevy of magnificent performances.

Godfrey Hamilton

Dave Calhoun thinks the movie drools " all over its own surface"? That's just a self-consciously clever bit of naff arch-bitchiness. What on earth do you make of 'Mad Men', which must be a Niagara of salivary saturation by your standards? The set dec is given the same meticulous, ordered attention that George gives to his own life, and no more self-reflexively drools over itself than George drools over the precise directions he leaves when laying out his burial attire ("Tie in windsor knot'). A magical, deeply moving film, with a bevy of magnificent performances.

SteveDenver

Obviously this reviewer did not review the film, but reviewed adaptation of the book. Too bad. It's a splendid piece, Firth's intense but constrained performance mirrors his starchy British roots, and he looks phenomenal but tortured. Julianne Moor is engaging and jolting as fellow Brit and miserable divorcee. And Goode, seen in flashbacks that recount their relationship, is fully committed to his role. This film is about loss and being emotionally stunned. Art direction and fashion could overwhelm the piece (Ford is a fashion designer), but strong performances triumph. I don't know if Keith Uhlich wasn't invited to Tom Ford's pool party or what the grudge, but this review is whiny and fails to convey the film.

Rob

Beautiful, tender, funny, moving fim, with oustanding performances by all the cast. I can now fully appreciate why Colin Firth is being seen as an Oscar nominee.

Rob

Beautiful, tender, funny, moving fim, with oustanding performances by all the cast. I can now fully appreciate why Colin Firth is being seen as an Oscar nominee.