Tom Ford’s past as a fashion designer for Gucci is all over his directorial debut, A Single Man. As painstakingly period perfect as AMC’s Mad Men, the film is a mid-century marvel of clothes, cars and gorgeous buildings.
At times, Christopher Isherwood’s story of a man mourning the loss of his lover is overwhelmed by all the artistic flourishes, close-ups on women’s eyeliner and lips and all the slow motion. Still, Colin Firth utterly disappears into his role of a grieving lover determined to kill himself. His is one of many fine performances in the film, and one that deserves Oscar recognition.
I wish that Ford had crafted more scenes of George with his partner Jim (Matthew Goode), because what we see only hints at the great love affair these men shared over 16 years. It would point up the tragedy of how George is blocked from Jim’s funeral by his family, an injustice that still happens today.
Nicholas Hoult is mysterious and alluring as George’s student, who may or may not be seeking a relationship with him. Julianne Moore’s Charley is a sad counterpoint to him, an ex-pat Brit who pines for a connection with George that he cannot return.
Although the film is tinged with a great sadness, it has moments of sexual electricity, as when George literally runs into a gorgeous hustler (Jon Kortajaren) at a liquor store.
A Single Man is paced slowly and deliberately, which may put off some filmgoers. It reminded me of The Hours, which may or may not be an endorsement. If you give yourself over to the ravishingly depicted world of A Single Man, you’ll find a lot to love.
on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.