“Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.” This line, spoken by a male prostitute in Tom Ford’s A Single Man, is perhaps the most poignant and encapsulating of the entire film. The man, named Carlos, says it to George Falconer (Oscar nominee Colin Firth), an English professor at a small college in 1960s Los Angeles trying, as he says to himself in the mirror at the beginning of the movie, to “just make it through the goddamned day.” His partner of the last sixteen years, Jim, has died in a car crash, and George is far from over it. He drifts in and out of the present, reminded of his lover by every little thing, and spends much of the one day over which A Single Man takes place planning to join him again.
The first thing you’ll notice is Firth’s commanding presence, of which more later. The second is the aesthetic: first-time filmmaker Tom Ford (who wrote, directed, and produced) seems in love with his setting, and clearly took great pains to portray it just so. His visual sense lends an air of unreality to the film that matches George’s mood. Events sometimes appear to be flashbacks even when they aren’t, and flashbacks appear to be happening in the present. This sometimes leaves us at sea in terms of what we’re looking at, thus leaving us in the same boat as George. Continue reading