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A Single Man


Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Tom Ford 
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode  
An image from A Single Man

Thankfully, the BAFTA went to the right person. Colin Firth thoroughly deserves his win for this career-defining role that sees him finally removing his shirt rather than just getting it wet. The bumbling Englishman persona that has been wearing a little thin lately takes on new life in Firth’s nuanced and sensitive portrayal of George, a middle-aged English expat living in 1960s Los Angeles. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, the film follows a single day of George’s life following the recent death of his partner Jim (Goode). The couple’s tender relationship is glimpsed in flashbacks, while George tries to navigate a life suddenly bereft of joy in a society which provides no outlet for a homosexual man to grieve his lover. Watching this film’s heartbreaking central performance will have us all inwardly thanking “the fridge guy,” whose timely visit Firth cited in his acceptance speech as the reason he accepted the role.

Some might find it surprising that the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford should have such poignant and sophisticated results. Every shot of this film is beautifully and painstakingly constructed, with Ford deftly playing around with different colour tones to reflect George's shifting mental states. This is not merely surface glamour; in this film the depth is in the details, the substance is in the style. Predictably, the clothes are gorgeous throughout.

A couple of scenes drag on a little too long, but the film’s structure is otherwise faultless. We follow George from flirting with a pupil from his literature class (Hoult), to getting drunk with an old friend from London (Moore). There are moments of surprisingly dark humour which prevent the film from veering into melodrama or sentimentality. Instead, the story is presented as an achingly stylish exploration of grief and love.

Shoshana Eilon

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Summer Term (35mm)