Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Single Man (2009) - Tom Ford

"Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty"

Beauty being the operative word here.  Ford's focus is clearly on the visual artistry of the film, as you'd expect from a fashion designer, but unfortunately the film falls victim to style over substance.

The film presents a day in the life of George (Colin Firth), a man living in Los Angeles in 1962 on the brink of suicide after the death of his long-term partner.  The narrative portrays how he copes with his grief, depicting that there is life after the death of a loved one, as he finds solace with his friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult).  Though the plot is brief, it is thoroughly compelling and emphasised by the visuals.  This is an impeccably stylish film.  George has shades of Richard Gere in American Gigolo with his immaculate and meticulous dress sense and of course the costumes are exquisite.  The use of colour as George makes peace with his grief is cleverly employed.  And Ford manages to find beauty in ever minute detail of the human form.

At times, though, some of the visual effects seem a little forced, as if Ford is trying to prove a point that his film is to be taken seriously (this being his debut).  More so, for all the visual artistry, the plot lacks some emotional weight.  Ford chooses to emphasise the isolation of a homosexual man in 1960s America, rather than explore the broader theme of coping with grief applicable to all.  Whilst films such as Brokeback Mountain successfuly exploit wider thematic implications, A Single Man feels a bit insular by comparison and isn't quite as clever as Ford would have you believe.

Firth gives a brilliant performance and is deserving of his Best Actor Oscar nomination.  The film relies on his characterisation and luckily it's easy to get drawn into the plot and empathise with George.  But the narrative substance can't quite live up to the visual opulence.