— by ALLISON HIGGINBOTHAM —
Set in the 1960s, “A Single Man” takes place in a single day, while George Falconer tries to go about his daily life after recently losing his partner.
George is a professor in his 50s who was in love with his younger partner, Jim, for 16 years. Jim, however, dies in a car accident while visiting his parents without George. George tries to go about his day — getting ready in the morning, teaching, going to the bank, getting hit on by a few younger males, and visiting his longtime friend, Charlotte. George, however, feels that losing his lover is unbearable and throughout the film he appears numb.
The film flashes back to moments with Jim and George: when they first met, a trip to the beach, a peaceful night at home, and the moment George was told about Jim’s death from a cousin on the phone, because Jim’s mom did not want to tell George. These flashbacks happen from last to first as George remembers Jim more fondly. There are a few references to how homosexuality was viewed in the 60s. George sees the homosexual majority as “invisible,” Charlotte insists that Jim was just a substitute to real love, and George is not allowed to attend Jim’s funeral. The film, however, is not about gay rights. It is about how connecting to another human being so deeply can change you.
“A Single Man” is simply beautiful. What really stands out in this movie is the editing. The first half of the movie is mostly grainy and dark, but interspersed are moments when the light becomes brighter and colors are more vibrant (the reason for these moments is given in the latter part of the film, which is almost always bright and clear.) There are shots in “A Single Man” which last only a few seconds, giving us a different view of the same scene and some shots that reach almost a minute with the camera staying perfectly still. This movie is, after all, about a man dealing with everyday living after his lover has died and these shots accentuate how normal everything can be (there are a lot of shots of clocks), even when the character feels like his live is surreal.
Another reason “A Single Man” works is the acting. Colin Firth is amazing. Believe all the hype he has been given for this film. He plays the role of George with such tenderness that the flashbacks are so poignant and believable that we can see why his life isn’t the same without Jim. Julianne Moore as Charlotte is also noteworthy. One minute, she can be the gin drinking girl who wants to have fun and then turn into the self pitying loner she sees herself as. Unlike Firth’s characters, Moore’s seems to be perpetually sad underneath the surface.
Even with all of its brilliance, “A Single Man” does have its faults. The editing becomes almost systematic when you realize there is a pattern. The music swells to the point of being unbearable at times (no doubt that’s what it is intended to do — music is significant in the film). The ending is predictable, but it doesn’t make it any less great.
“A Single Man” is more than just a story about a man dealing with death. It is more like a work of art where all the aspects enhance each other to create a wonderfully-crafted film. In an era where special effects and hot actors are enough to gross millions, “A Single Man” proves that a movie can be intellectually stimulating and good.
“A Single Man” currently has a limited release, with a wide release planned early 2010.
Click here for two clips from “A Single Man.”
Follow Allison Higginbotham on Twitter at http://twitter.com/allisonbh.