Ford’s directorial debut is an aural and visual feast. Centering on a day in the life of George, a college professor bereaved from the loss of his long-term partner, this is a film about the minor, seemingly inconsequential moments in life rather than the obviously momentous events.
Set in the early 1960s, A Single Man exposes attitudes to homosexuality at the time, although Ford’s focus is on a character in despair; his sexuality is almost incidental. The story is carefully crafted; the effect that the other characters have on the protagonist is palpable.
Firth is exceptional as George, his sincere performance makes him a worthy Oscar contender. Moore is both believable and immensely watchable as Charley, the old English friend with more than just a soft spot for George. Hoult is engaging as the keen student, his youthful enthusiasm works well as an antidote to Firth’s melancholy.
Cinematography, art direction and editing are all first class. Some of the flashback sequences in particular are beautifully shot, giving real feeling to scenes with little dialogue. The saturation of colour in incidences when George is “brought back” is a nice touch, much of the emotion in the film can be garnered from the visual cues.
A Single Man has been considered by some as being a product of style over substance. Whilst the film is visually stunning, there is also a heartfelt story to be told. Anyone who has ever felt the searing pang of grief or depression will be able to identify with George’s mantra: “Just get through the goddamn day”.