Old 01-16-2010, 03:00 PM
Tom Ford's A Single Man

Here's the link to my published review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:


A Single Man (2009)

The title pretty much says it all. The film is about a single man, who up until recently had been living happily with someone else. However, it is also the main problem with the film; it is about nothing more than the single titular man. The filmmakers were probably hoping that this would enough to sustain the film, that is, as long as they were able to garner the audience's sympathy. Unfortunately, this is just not enough.

The single man referred to in the title is George Falconer (Colin Firth). For the past 16 years, he had been living with his boyfriend, Jim (Matthew Goode), and quite happily too. In 1962, a car crash suddenly claims Jim's life, leaving George all alone with only a single friend, Charlotte (Julianne Moore), to comfort him. He also tries to take refuge in his job as an English professor, where we get to witness him briefly teaching a novel by Aldous Huxley before breaking off into other territory. The majority of the film deals with how George tries to come to terms with what has happened and how he can get on with his life.

This brief, 90-minute film has the feeling that it's trying to build up to something with its scenario throughout the entire film. It feels like it has some purpose, some point to make, but it never gets around to making one, and instead, ends rather quickly on a rather poor note. The film basically consists of following George around from character to character as he makes smalltalk, when instead there should have been discussions that expand on his past relationship with Jim.

This was one of the other problems that the film had. It wanted to evoke our sympathy for George and what he was going through, but it so briefly glides over their relationship, that we never get to find out what made them truly fall in love. There is a brief flashback to them meeting at a bar, and one or two more of them being together, but nothing to explain why they were so important to each other.

Colin Firth gives a very subtle, yet interesting performance as the man trying to deal with the death of his friend. He plays the character as someone who is caught between two choices; the same two choices that Hamlet finds himself trying to decide between. He has the will to go on, but he also has the will not to. What's keeping him around after he has lost Jim?

Well, for one thing, he has a dinner date with his one friend, Charlotte, whom he refers to as "Charley." Their friendship is never really explained. They apparently knew each other when they lived back in London. She is an interesting character that hints that they should have been together in what she calls a "real" relationship. But George had Jim, and that was all he ever needed.

Early in the film, George becomes friends with one of his students, Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult), a young man who was very interested in his lecture in class that day on fear. His intentions with George are unclear at first, but when they bump into each other again, things begin to fall into place, and George begins to understand why Kenny approached him in the first place. I'm just going to chalk it up to pure coincidence that there was an owl nearby when Mr. Potter visits George's home.

There just isn't enough here to recommend. If it had been able to get its purpose across or make the point that it seemed it was trying to build to, then it might have been worth following George around as he meets different people or reminisces with old ones. It's a shame that it never does, because it sets an interesting tone that could have been used to delve into George's relationship with Jim, or to really show how he was struggling with the loss. It doesn't exactly become boring, but you just know there's a better movie in there somewhere. 2.5/4 stars.
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