Friday, 19 February 2010

Review: A Single Man

Year: 2009
Director: Tom Ford
Screenplay: Tom Ford, David Scearce
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicolas Hoult, Matthew Goode

Film Synopsis is here

I must admit, when I first saw the posters of a single man, I wasn't too impressed, nor was I bothered by the slight buzz it was starting to get from early reviews. I couldn't care enough about the films homosexuality being hidden in its marketing, not because I'm homophobic but because my disinterest in the bloody marketing in the first place! But then I saw the trailer for the first time and something struck me. The films style was up and out for all to see and it looked gorgeous. So gorgeous that maybe this is something I should have to see.

I'm glad I watched it because A Single Man was a fine film to watch. I was a little worried that my enjoyment may have been enhanced because I had just saw the dreadful The Lovely Bones and just wanted to see something else after to take away the pain but no, A Single Man works because it deals with similar aspects of grief better than Peter Jackson's bloated excuse of a movie. It's a film with strong performances that carry weight and a story that despite being well trodden, manages to tell the tale with panache. Some have complained it's style over substance, but the performances and taut pacing of the story says otherwise.

Ford's superb use of colour and confident direction of actors drive the film to it's end. The brightening of the hues when ever Firth's George reminisces about his lost love (played with a breezy boldness by Matthew Goode) works immensely well if a little overused. Moments of slow motion enhance emotion as opposed to merely looking cool (for the most part) and the visuals of the whole thing is as slick as hair gel...bad metaphor but I meant well.

What Ford's film captures best is the banality of what happens after death, a difficult process to grasp, but one that works by Ford accurately setting up a very pedestrian day, eight months after the death of George's Beau. Everything in the world is so sharp, clean and crisp. Not just because of the directors fashion background, but because this is how the character has decided to progress after such a loss. The contrast between this setting and the restrained look and weighted shoulders of Firth's George is where the drama stems from. We are watching a man who appears almost incapable of grieving, but not because he doesn't want to but he lives in a period where to cry out about his pain could be even more damaging.

It's a powerful display by Firth, an actor whose never caught my eye before (Richard Curtis comedies cause me to doze), brings about a a complex turn which meld old-school, British stiffness with a wave of emotion simmering just above the surface. Standout moments include George's lecture scene, a brief but telling moment between George and a security and of course the cheery conversation between George and his ditsy best mate Charlotte (the ever reliable Julianne Moore), which suddenly turns cold without a moments notice. Firth throughout is intensely watchable, but then again, the whole cast is, with a stand out going to Nicolas Hoult who pulls off a fantastic American drawl, that I myself had no idea he could do.

While this is a film which is more about the acting talent on display, Ford also tries his dab hand at co writing the screenplay along with David Scearce. The Result is a script which is as darkly humorous as it is emotional. the dialogue at times, comes off as smooth as the set design, but then again, this may also be down to the acting ability that is on display.

It's not grand as the film suffers from some pacing issues during the middle section and some might find the film to be a little dry but as a character study of one man's grief, you can do worse than watching A Single Man. Great performances, Luscious style, nice debut.

Hear me rave about this at Cinematic Dramatic Podcast at Geek Planet Online