A Single Man has mostly been praised as a Colin Firth vehicle, but I thought it was a strong debut for Tom Ford as a filmmaker. It's a little movie, and I'd be wary of overpraising it, but it's got quite a bit of emotional power for such a small package.
Make no mistake -- this is a sad, sad picture, full of characters hanging on desperately to what little they've left to value in their lives, its protagonist teetering on the precipice between life and death. And yet its images are so beautiful, so haunting -- and the flashback scenes between Firth and Matthew Goode full of real humanity -- you want to believe the film's characters will eventually be able to return to something better, something more hopeful.
It's interesting that, in the age of Mad Men, we've had a number of films this year that have explored life in the '60's -- the film shares more than just a similar title with A Serious Man. (And, though it takes place across the pond, An Education would qualify as well as another film which really taps into the era.) In this way, A Single Man qualifies as a strong portrait of a specific time and place, and the film does an excellent job at showing how the values of the era seem to be oppressing all of the characters lives.
There's a lot of irony in the ending, and it feels very fitting. I'll refrain from discussing much more until people have had a chance to see the film.
Colin Firth is obviously a clear Best Actor candidate. His scene on the telephone near the beginning of the film is a knockout, as we see a wide range of emotions wash over his face as he hears life-altering news. And his reaction to hearing "it's only for family" is devastating. His role isn't full of showy, BIG scenes, but his performance is deeply felt throughout.
Julianne Moore is also terrific in her smaller role as Firth's best friend. It's the kind of character she's often excelled at -- a boozed-up neurotic at the end of her rope -- and she gets the film's emotional outbursts. It's not necessarily new ground for her, but I think she expertly taps into the naivete of a woman who really can't comprehend why her best friend would love another man instead of her. Her mix of ignorance and selfishness is itself heartbreaking. This isn't a trophy-winning role for her, but it will put her in play again, so that (hopefully) she can get a truly great leading role within the next few years and win the Best Actress trophy she's deserved for a while.
The score is tremendously haunting, and it might have been the happiest surprise for me out of all the Golden Globe nominations. It's not the kind of work that often gets Oscar nods, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it makes the cut.
An artful, aching film, and a show of promise for Ford, should he continue his foray into filmmaking.