A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, is based on a Christopher Isherwood novel. As such, it features an older Brit who has to fend off the advances of one young hunk after another. It should have been called A Lucky Man.
Colin Firth plays the Brit, and it’s the role of a lifetime for him, a likely Oscar nomination if only for the terrific scene near the beginning of the film, when he receives a phone call telling him that his lover of 16 years has been killed in a car crash. Firth’s acting is very moving, likewise in a scene where he and Julianne Moore, channeling Lynn Redgrave, talk about their past intimacy, and what could never be.
The movie is a tad overdirected. There are a million extreme close-ups of eyeballs and lips, and lots of scenes of nude men underwater. There’s also a bleached colour palate, rendering whole scenes in sepia. As a fashionista, Ford should have heeded the old adage to look in the mirror and take off one thing before going out the door. It’s hard not to admire his enthralling attention to period detail, though (the story is set in 1962). The tiny Aspirin container certainly jarred my memories. But what to make of the unfortunate comic suicide attempt?
The whole time I was watching, I kept thinking about the documentary Chris and Don, about Isherwood’s long-term relationship with the much younger artist, Don Bachardy. Apparently, they called each other by the nicknames 'Cat' and 'Horse'. A Single Man is thankfully free of that level of cuteness, but the sad tale isn’t quite sad enough.