Is it possible that a film can be too pretty for its own good? If so, then I think A Single Man falls into that category. Tom Ford clearly has a keen visual eye. Every single frame in the film could be its own poster or magazine photograph. I really enjoyed the shots where George was observing the physical details of the various people he encountered. At times I found myself being so distracted by the visuals that I was starting to ignore aspects of the narrative.
Despite the strong visuals, Ford is determined to have A Single Man be more than just a stylish film. He really works hard to ensure that the story and characters are always at the forefront. This is what makes Tom Ford’s directorial debut such a memorable film. The story may revolve around George’s grief over losing his lover, but there is opportunity for him to find love around every corner. George is practically the gay kin of James Bond and Shaft, as it seems almost every person he meets wants to bed him. The refreshing thing about this is that George is completely aware of his sexual magnetism and often struggles not to give into his own urges.
The film is as much about moving on as it is about mourning loss. As much as I enjoyed the flashbacks segments between George and Jim, it was more exciting watching the cat and mouse like game that George plays with Kenny. The romantic tension is palpable yet it is George’s guilt, or at least his need to hold onto to the guilt, that is the wedge in their budding relationship.
The need to hold onto the past is also found in the George and Charley arc. To me this is the most gut wrenching part of the whole movie. George and Charley both have baggage to deal with but they display it in different ways. George wallows in his grief while Charley puts on the façade of being carefree. In my opinion it is Charley who is by far the saddest character in the whole picture. Her whole life is defined by the various men in her life. Now living alone, Charley drinks away her pain while secretly longing to rekindle the magical night she once had with George. The fact that George views their one encounter as a just a moment of fun is very telling. It represents how Charley has been viewed by most of the men in her life.
A lot of credit must be giving to both Colin Firth and Julianne Moore for their work in A Single Man. They do a wonderful job bring out the complexities of their individual characters. Their unique performances help to convey the sorrow and joy within George and Charley. Although there is a lot of grief that runs throughout A Single Man; the performances coupled with Tom Ford visual flare makes this film a rather joyous film to watch.