For all those who ask why they should see A Single Man, I have only two words: Colin Firth.
The actor, who has made a career of playing self-deprecating, elegant British gentlemen from Pride and Prejudice to Bridget Joneses? Diary, creates here a portrait of grief so gut-wrenching that it will singe your soul. He strips every layer off until all that is left is a sliver of howling pain. At times, his performance is so naked, that you almost want to look away.
A Single Man, loosely adapted from a novel by Christopher Isherwood, is about exactly that. Firth plays Professor Falconer, a British expatriate, who teaches English in a California high school in 1962.
The film follows a single day in the life of the professor who aims to shoot himself that night.
Professor Falconer is gay. His partner of 16 years died in a car accident eight months ago. Steeped in grief, Falconer decides that today will be different.
Today he will just put an end to it. Since this will be his last day on earth, Falconer acutely observes each experience, noticing the way the eyeliner curves on a girl?s eyelid and deeply inhaling the scent of dog. Interspersed through the day are scenes from his past and relationship.
A Single Man is the directorial debut of celebrated designer Tom Ford. Not surprisingly, the film is blindingly pretty. Nothing is frayed or askew.
In fact some images are so designed that they hobble the emotional wallop of the story. But Firth moors the style and aesthetics in raw but restrained emotion. Watch the scene in which he is told, on the telephone, that his lover is dead and that he cannot come to the funeral. His voice barely changes even as his face crumples with pain.
Julianne Moore pitches in with a fine performance as Falconer?s friend Charley, who tries to cloak her desperate loneliness with alcohol and make-up.
A Single Man is both beautiful and heart-breaking. I strongly recommend that you make time for it.