Colin Firth (Disney's A Christmas Carol, Easy Virtue) delivers one of the year's memorable performances in this stunning, if arguably aloof period drama.
Tom Ford's A Single Man co-stars Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, and Matthew Goode, and is set in 1962 Los Angeles as the Cuban Missile Crisis comes to a head.
As in last year's mighty Milk, there is an artistic, riveting intersection of one's private and public existence that leaves quite an impression. It strikingly catches into something intrinsic to anyone, something at the very core of humanity.
Firth's middle-aged British George Falconer is an introverted university professor whose life is shattered after his longtime love Jim (Goode) perishes in an auto accident. Well, in such a repressed epoch, he goes about his business of lecturing in a way to put his life in perspective. A crucial crucible comes in a headlong hedonistic way with hard-drinking chum Charlotte, who goes by Charley (Moore), as well as an appealing Spanish guy (Jon Kortajarena) and an eager, preying student Kenny (Hoult) who seems to identify with the distraught professor.
Ford, who collaborated on the non-linear screenplay with David Scearce from Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel, makes an assured transition to film from fashion design. If George's lecture drifts, this exquisite period picture doesn't, getting the most from each frame, perhaps too sleek and too lustrous. The City of Angels has that brand-new look, from its edifices to its cars, and the people with some beautiful hairdos and classy clothes.
But all the visual verve and prodigous production values doesn't mitigate the characterizations. Starting with the fabulous Firth (180 degrees from Mr. Darcy) who gives George the wounded resolve which is grounded in reality. In her somewhat limited screentime, Moore evinces much emotion to the colorful, gregarious, and uncertain Charlotte. Hoult adds a kind of clever capriciousness while Goode (so good in films like Match Point) offers finely wrought wrinkles to George's idealized happiness.
Ford, with estimable crew members like Arianne Phillips (costumes), Dan Bishop (design) and Eduard Grau (lensing), conveys George's detached, desaturated point of view with a halycon likeness to what Todd Haynes with Moore in the richly involving Far from Heaven. Firth is well-known for his success in British comedies like Bridget Jones's Diary and Love Actually. But, this inventive, luxuriant minority report on fear and prejudice has quite an internalized visibility to it that the reliably hearty performer makes impeccably soulful and wrenching.