A Single Man (2009): “Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.”

A_Single_ManWritten, directed, and produced by prominent fashion designer Tom Ford, A Single Man (2009) is based on the book of the same name by British author Christopher Isherwood. Set in 1962, it tells the story of George Falconer, a university professor who has recently lost his partner in a horrible car accident. We follow George (Colin Firth) as he continues to live his life with a huge part of it tangibly missing. 

Ultimately, the intention of this film is to explore the concept of disenfranchised grief. George has lost his partner, Jim, whom he was with for 16 years. They had a life together, a home, dogs, a routine, a shared existence. The film shows what it’s like, both internally and externally, to have to cover up your feelings of loss as a result of a love that is not accepted in society at the time. George is not allowed to grieve openly, just as he was not able to be in love with Jim openly. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Colin Firth is amazing as the quintessentially British professor, an ex-pat living in sunny California. I believe this is his best work.

Having read the source material, I can definitely say that the film accurately captures Isherwood’s style of writing: floating, stream of consciousness, exploring ideas rather than telling you about them. Although the film has made some changes to the plot, it certainly has not changed the ethos of the story. I would rate this as one of the better book-to-film adaptations that I’ve seen recently.

It comes as no surprise that when Tom Ford directs a film, it is incredibly beautiful and stylised. The film shows emotions in terms of colour. When George is stuck inside his grief, the film takes on a blue-grey tone. When his heart warms, as a result of an affable child, an attractive man, or a flower, the tone becomes warm – predominantly reds, pinks, and oranges. The production design is gorgeous, also, which is another non-surprise as it was taken care of by the same team responsible for the (amazing) television show Mad Men.

Here are some of my favourite shots from A Single Man. I would highly encourage you to watch this film, as these shots are one hundred per cent more beautiful in motion than in still frame. As I did with my post on the cinematography of Skyfall (2012), I’ll be mixing these images up so it’s not just a big summary of the film!

















A Single Man is grief in the shape of a film. It shows so expressively the way that one individual experiences the loss of his partner, in such a way that it will make you mourn for them also. Not only is it visually stunning, its expression of grief is authentic and heartbreaking.

Watch the trailer here.

All screencaps sourced from Screenmusings.org.


  1. Great review!

  2. Great film and an underrated one I think. Tom Ford needs to give up that fashion rubbish and make more films. This is so pretty to look at and he nails much more than that, including the emotional side as well.

    1. Have you seen the Aussie film Burning Man? Your opening sentence of the last paragraph – “A Single Man is grief in the shape of a film” – invoked that film a lot for me. It divides opinion, but I think it is phenomenal. One of the top few Aussie films of the past decade in my view. Also stars Matthew Goode who is in this.

      1. I haven’t seen this one! I’ve had a brief look at the wiki page and it looks like something I would really like, so thank you for the recommendation! 🙂 Love a good Aussie film.

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  4. Such a gorgeous movie, both in terms of cinematography and story. I really hope Tom Ford directs something again.

    1. I hope so too! He has such a good eye for both cinematography and clothes. I just did a bit of a Google search and it looks like he’s preparing to do another film!

    2. Also, thanks so much for sharing this post on your blog! 🙂 I kind of adore your blog a little bit.

  5. I’ve heard much about this film and it seems just so, so sad. I love Colin Firth, too. I really should watch it. Beautiful review and great caps, too!

    1. Thank you! It is a very sad film, but it has quite a poignant message. I’d recommend reading the book as well!

  6. […] A SINGLE MAN (2009): “SOMETIMES AWFUL THINGS HAVE THEIR OWN KIND OF BEAUTY.” (filmgrimoire.com) […]

  7. Nicely written review Anna. I was so moved by this film, really touched me. And the visuals were gorgeous along with the simply superb cast. Colin Firth knocked it out the park with his subtle work.

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