Written, 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.