Adapted from a 1964 novel of the same name, the film follows a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a British college professor reeling with the recent and sudden loss of his longtime parter. This traumatic event makes George challenge his own will to live as he seeks the console of close friend Charley (Juliane Moore) who is struggling with her own questions about life.
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At The Movies
A Single Man (PG) * * * *
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Ready to make an impact at cinemas on a global scale is A Single Man, a confidence building venture from Tom Ford and Alliance Films now turning up the heat at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
First time filmmakers often stumble out of the gate and are never heard from again. Such a fate will not befall Tom Ford who makes a stunning debut with A Single Man. Taken from a story Ford also wrote the screenplay and produces this startling look at the trials and tribulations confronting a middle aged man.
During the Cold War things were not all that accommodating for minorities in The United States. British transplant George has made a nice transition to sunny California. Colin Firth (Mamma Mia!) continues to grow as an actor and will add to his legions of fans through his portrayal of George. Likeable and loveable George goes about his daily routine as a teacher of English at a college. Through flashbacks we see this man’s tendency to open up to other men. Love affairs between men or lesbian liasons have long been hidden and A Single Man deftly explores the relationships this kind-hearted man has with other males.
Frank and full of compassion A Single Man weaves a wonderful web of hope and desperation as one of George’s lovers has fallen on hard times. Nothing is worse than losing a loved one and news of mate Jim’s sudden departure throws George into a long depressed state. Cast as Jim is Matthew Goode (Match Point) who pulls off a caring portrait of one man who befriends George in a long term relationship that’s full of trust, humour and understanding. Together these two seem meant for each other and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Few friends know the two are an item so when Jim dies suddenly it truly sends George into a tailspin.
Firth is outstanding as the calm, cool and collected George whose life situation drastically changes when his lover disappears. Small nuances by Firth take on grand meanings as anyone whose lost a loved one will be able to relate to the emotional upheaval this man faces and endures. Nothing is overplayed in this treatment of loss and the fact that it involves a deep relationship between two members of the same sex who largely lead private lives magnifies the intensity further.
Friends are needed at a time of difficulty. Julianne Moore (Hannibal) proves to be a good stand-in as Charley, a pal to George who provides a degree of levity and poignancy as a shoulder to cry on. Under the surface there is considerable tension in A Single Man with age being another theme thrown into the mix.
School affords lots of opportunities for new friendships as do chance encounters. Both these elements are well brought out as George goes about his daily routine. In class sessions turn out to be even more eventful as Kenny, a student in English, proves to be a rather quick study under George’s subtle tutelage. Nicholas Hoult has certainly come of age from his breakthrough role in About A Boy to turn in a sweet, gentle performance as Kenny, a much younger male who somehow becomes a part of George’s unique life.
Clocking in at 101 minutes A Single Man is a sincere effort by newcomer Tom Ford to explore the love of friendship and the pain of grief. Again Colin Firth rises to the fore and turns in a masterful caring portrait of an emotional person who must wrestle with his conscience while hoping not to hurt or disappoint others. Smart usage of vintage images from 1962 including classic cars and world political upheavals set the stage for not just a potential global catastrophe but a personal tragedy in the making in one human’s chaotic life that centres on forbidden love and private pleasures in a story that raises the bar and ups the emotional ante with no let down in sight.
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