Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Single Triumph

Watching a new film is often like picking a chocolate at random from a tray of Thornton’s - you’re never quite certain what you’re going to end up with. You could be landed with nougat for example (bad) or you could, on the other hand, stumble across a strawberry cream (good). However, I knew I was in safe hands watching a film directed by the infamous fashion designer, Tom Ford. I had read about his directorial debut in Vogue months ago, and witnessed the furore when ‘A Single Man’ first hit the cinema; glowing reviews and a BAFTA for lead actor Colin Firth. However it was not until a few days ago when I saw the DVD in my local library, that I actually got round to watching it.

It is rare that a film leaves such an impression upon me. Films may be good, but they soon fade and merge into one another. When the end credits rolled on ‘A Single Man’ I was left staring and speechless. That night scenes from the film hovered poignantly in my mind’s eye.

The story tells of George Falconer, a professor whose partner of sixteen years, Jim, died in a car crash. The film follows George’s last day - because George plans on killing himself that evening.

Heartbreak is universal. Although George Falconer is living the anguish of having lost the man he loves, in Colin Firth’s portrayal is a heartbreak that crosses continents, bridges prejudices and reaches out to anyone who has ever fallen in love and knows the pain of a broken heart.

It is simple things that makes the film so special. The opening scene commences with the main character saying he spends each day just trying to be George. In a world where everything is about doing - working, making money, becoming popular, going places - it is often worth reminding ourselves that simply ‘being’ can be enough. For George Falconer simply being is perhaps the hardest thing of all, showing us in stark clarity his tragic motives for suicide.

As you would expect from a designer who turned Gucci into the glamour-emporium it is today, ‘A Single Man’ is a beautifully stylish film. In heady flashbacks perfectly made up faces are bathed in a golden film, whilst an almost grey light and the minimalism of George Falconer’s dress and home reflect his darker moods. Clothes play their part - there is the black suit that George Falconer dons every day, each morning with a new white shirt fresh from its packaging. Or the soft, fluffy jumper worn by Nicholas Hoult’s character that implies an innocence and youth that appeals to his lonely professor.

Relationships within the film are challenging, yet the viewer isn’t alienated - empathy flows naturally. Julianne Moore’s character portrays with sad conviction a love that can never be reciprocated, whilst even the perverse relationship formed between George Falconer and his student, based on a strange curiosity, is believable and understandable.

It would be pointless to describe the beauty of some of the scenes, because every single shot is perfection. Better then to say, watch it and find out. For me ‘A Single Man’ was the best film I have watched in a long time; stylishly and evocatively shot, and giving a poignant view of love, friendship, pain and heartbreak - in short what it means to be human.


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