Leaving Los Angeles
I once heard someone say that they didn't like taking naps because every time they woke they realised how crap their life was. That leads me to "A Single Man" where we follow George who has that feeling ever since 8 months earlier his partner Jim died and after 8 months of heart break and stumbling through the haze of the day is planning to do something about it.
Now "A Single Man" is a fascinating movie, take the characters as we have a gay man who is heartbroken, it is heartbreak which is the focus not the fact that he is homosexual. Then there is the fact that this was fashion designer Tom Ford's debut as a director and as debut's go it is pretty special, confidently directed with style and purpose. And you can add to this a first class performance from Colin Firth who takes us on the highs and lows of George's existence. But whilst each of these components is good they don't always work together and Ford's visual concept sometimes dominates the story which is a shame.
For 16 years George (Colin Firth - Genova) and Jim (Matthew Goode) had been together since they met in a crowded bar, but then a car crash 8 months ago left George alone and struggling to carry on. Every day is full of hurt and memories and having struggled on George decides today is the day he takes control as he plans to end his life. But first he needs to sort things out, clear his office, the safety deposit box and leave instructions for his funeral but whilst he fastidiously prepares he meets various people who briefly give him hope.
Story wise "A Single Man" is slim and it is purely about a man who can't go on, stuck living with the memories of the man he loved and unable to get over his loss. The fact George is a homosexual is not actually important, the subject is mentioned but this is a story of heartbreak and loss rather than homosexuality. And as such it does do a good job of delivering that aspect, the heartbreak of George as his day to day life has passes him in a daze punctuated by painful memories.
We also have the fact that George plans to end his life before the day is out and to say we have the humour would be wrong but we get the quirks because of how George is. He is fastidious, laying out keys, letters and instructions before rehearsing how he plans to kill himself and taking in to consideration how much mess he will make.
The whole fastidious side of George is a very visual element, from his shirts in the drawers to the way he organizes everything and "A Single Man" is a very visual movie. From various camera shots, often focussed tightly into the face to the polar colour palette which Tom Ford chooses. It's symbolism, the muted tones of George's everyday life suddenly glow with sunlit, vibrant hues when something positive happens during his day and it is clever. But unfortunately it ends up dominating the movie and causes "A Single Man" to become a movie almost only about the look.
The thing which stops it from being purely visual is Colin Firth who delivers another astonishingly good performance. Within minutes of meeting George we feel his pain, the horror of waking up, the memories triggered as he walks around his home and the emptiness which dominates his life only changed by chance encounters. It is such a brilliant performance that whilst Firth stars alongside Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult they are often overshadowed.
What this all boils down to is that "A Single Man" is a very good movie and as a directional debut it is exceptional. But unfortunately for me the visual element ends up dominating the movie and causes it to be less about what George goes through and more about the symbolism of colours. Never the less the thing which you will take from the movie is yet another astonishingly good performance from Colin Firth.