Director: Tom Ford
The first time I saw this, I was left speechless. The film was beautifully shot, especially the aesthetics. I've written a review about this before, but after seeing it the second time around, I felt that my initial review wasn't justifiable. Taking a second look at a brilliant film by Tom Ford, it would not only be the aesthetics that I would look at. There was some poetry playing at hand, being an aide into being the beauty of a simple story. While I've ranked this a tad lower than the first viewing, there was more elements that I was able to grasp and enjoy, still making this film a favorite from all actors involved.
George was a college professor at a local university, a man who appears to live a simple life. In truth, he was in mourning, mourning for the death of his lover, which happened 8 months ago. The film was set in a single day, where George goes about his daily activities, meeting people and engaging in striking conversations in the progress. But what his world doesn't know that deep inside his mind, George was about to do a life changing decision, a process that the viewers get to see on screen. As the day progressed, we get to grasp the concept of George's life, his thoughts, and his pains, and how everything would come together to mold his life.
I like how George's relationship with Jim was played out on screen. It was also done tastefully, and their connection leads us to believe that they were in a serious relationship. I like how the film wasn't conservative with its scenes, but it showed a realism to what kind of relationship they were in. We get to catch a glimpse of George's simple past, and how they were as a couple. Because their relationship was being played out on screen, it gives a firmer grasp on what kind of pain George was experiencing. It wasn't just some blinding pain like in most movies, where we're just told that this character has passed away and that was that, there was no basis. Because there is a visual impact, we get to understand where George is coming from.
The film played with metaphors and irony, and has already presented a foreshadowing on what would happen in the final act. If I'd tell you those metaphors (and the irony), I'd be spoiling a poetic take on the film. There was a particular symbolism that Ford used that I was having trouble understanding. If you'd notice, the film's color palette would change, from a dim dull scheme suddenly bursting into brighter color. Does the change in color symbolize the way the world is, that when it's the duller shade, that was the way George saw his world, but bringing in the brightness of color, we get to see what the world actually looked like? Does it symbolize the ranging of emotions that George was finally able to grasp after months of mourning, that somehow he was moving on with his life? Maybe it was an aesthetic move?
As the film panned out, George only doesn't connect with Jim, but shares conversations with Charlotte and Kenny. Charlotte was George's old friend, and she also has thoughts of her own when it comes to George. They share a bond of long time friendship, a friendship that would never be more. Kenny on the other hand, presented George with the future. Kenny was someone that he was starting to connect with intellectually, and his presence gave him hope. Hope that he would be able to live another day without diving into depression, that he could see in a new light. A minor interaction that also made the screen was his short conversation with Carlos, a man he met outside the liquor store. It showed an unmasked George, another side of a man who tried to get away from dealing with his present self.
I honestly did not picture Colin Firth to take a role like this. He always seemed to be so polished in everything he does. Not only does he play the role quite tastefully, and there was a sense that he owned the character, but he done it in his own sense. He played a lovely character, and he was able to show his flaws, his weaknesses and his emotions. It helps that the key players were also good actors. Matthew Goode and Julianne Moore only appeared in selected scenes, yet their scenes were flawless. I loved the chemistry Firth had with these characters and I couldn't imagine other actors playing their roles. Nicholas Hoult brought his dramatic chops as Kenny, forging a connection with his professor. It reminded me of his work in About a Boy, and after seeing his other works, Hoult can act, and has a range of it. He can deliver the character he was asked of, and this was one of his better performances.
This wouldn't be complete if I didn't talk about the visuals. A major factor of making the film beautiful was the set design. It was minimalist, but it was able to stand out and compliment the entire atmosphere. The attention to detail was great. The film also took notice of the characters' eyes, symbolic to the saying "the eyes are the windows to the soul"; that the eyes reveal the true emotion of a person. The music score was amazing as well; it felt perfect.
I guess my only problem would have to be the false marketing. Noticing the posters, it was of Firth and Moore, although Goode and Hoult played more of the major roles. The dialogue wasn't as strong, but the message was conveyed. But I think in this type of film, it's not the philosophies that matter, rather what kind of relationship is formed based on the conversation. We see George and Jim engaging in a very serious relationship, George and Charlotte putting amends on the past and what will never be, and George and Kenny opening new doors to new possibilities.
All in all, A Single Man is a great, brilliant film. It manages to mix up a good story told with emotion and passion, disguised underneath an aesthetically pleasing setting. It showcases Firth, Goode and Hoult in one of their best performances, with Moore not trailing far behind. A great directorial debut for Tom Ford, as he managed to convey a simple story in a beautiful setting. I wouldn't be surprised if he was given another chance to direct something similar to this, he'd take it.