Man on the Verge

30 Dec

In the film A Single Man, Colin Firth plays George, a gay college professor still mourning the loss of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), who was killed in a car accident eight months earlier. The film follows George over the course of one day in 1962, as he prepares to end his life by committing suicide. As George remembers the life he shared with Jim, he is also consoled by his closest friend, Charley (Julianne Moore), who is also still getting over a lost love. Then hope and a chance at a future comes in the form of an attractive student (Nicholas Hoult, all grown up since most folks saw him in About a Boy), who shows interest in George and thinks he can help his professor break out of his depression.

Directed and co-written by the designer Tom Ford, A Single Man is one of the most stylish movies I’ve seen recently. Every frame, every detail, is impeccably arranged and composed — almost to the point of overdoing it — with colors becoming muted and brighter throughout. No surprise, Firth is also very well dressed; all of his clothes were designed by Ford himself. Thankfully, there’s also plenty to feel. Firth gives a heartbreaking performance that’s surely one of the year’s best. Much of the film finds George in quiet contemplation, and the look of sadness on Firth’s face is just devastating.

Thankfully, the film does not stay downbeat throughout. That said, this is clearly not a happy, festive movie. (And, by the way, it is not to be confused with A Serious Man, even though both are set in the 1960s and focus on a college professor.) Rather, this is a showcase for Firth, and a chance for Ford to indulge his cinematic interests. And indulge may be the operative word here. Ford does overdo it a bit, and that becomes a distraction, but so be it. Colin Firth makes the movie worth seeing, in spite of his director’s meddling. But that’s why I’m only going to give this movie a B.

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