Tom Ford’s directorial debut A Single Man is a quiet, emotive and beautiful film. Based on Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel of the same name, the film is essentially a snapshot in time – a day in the life of college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth). The film focuses on Falconer as he tries to negotiate the simple act of living following the death of Jim, his partner of sixteen years. The time is the early 1960s, when sexual acts between men were still criminalised and the mood was one of fear and uncertainty following the Cuban missile crisis. Set in Stanford, the film follows Falconer over the course of the day he decides to take his own life.
Despite the overwhelming grief, there are moments of light humour and sparks of sensuality. These come in Falconer’s interactions with his student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), his brief encounter with an impossibly handsome Spanish boy he meets when buying gin and his friendship with Julianne Moore’s Charley, an English expat and Falconer's confidant.
As Kenny, Hoult is captivating. He’s beautiful and disaffected in his uneasy fascination with Falconer. Julianne Moore is fabulous in her role as Charley, Falconer’s best friend and one-time lover. She tackles the role with confidence, negotiating alcoholism and unrequited love with a sense of warmth. Charley has all the devastating beauty of the Hollywood starlet and shots trained on her eyes as she applies makeup emphasise the layers to her character and the mask of outward happiness which slips on occasion during her evening with Falconer, through her dialogue and facial cues.
One of Firth’s best films to date and a self-assured and confident debut from Ford. A moving and affecting story of love, loss and grieving. Would recommend.