A Single Man follows an English professor called George (Colin Firth) as he attempts to live his life following the death of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode).
A moving drama, A Single Man completes Firth’s transition from rom com fodder to one of the most capable actors around today. Resembling a sexy Nick Clegg, he effortlessly captures George’s lonliness, as he seeks companionship in one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Hoult has also proven himself once again, making up for his dismal performance in Skins, as he dons the American accent and strikes up believable chemistry with the much older Firth. Beautifully shot with a meticulous precision, the spot-on costumes, subtle use of colour, and casting capture the era perfectly.
While any film featuring prominent gay characters is doomed to be know primarily for this, A Single Man is about much more than homosexuality. The orientation of its main character seems almost incidental, as it serves more as a pondering of the human condition and a reflection on lonliness and mortality than homosexuality. Little is made of the fact his lover was also a man, although the 1960s setting means that following Jim’s death he is unable to be open and honest about the nature of their relationship, adding to his isolation.
One frustrating aspect of the film, which portrayals of gay characters in film and TV almost always do, is make it look like a gay person can wander into any bar, party or place of work and stumble upon eligible gay partners. This is extremely far from the truth and undoubtedly done for narrative ease, but the implication that when the two handsome, mutually attractive gay men at the party stumble upon each other they implicitly know the other’s sexuality then hit it off is a very long way from an accurate portrayal of homosexual relationships, and contribute to the mythological concept of a “gaydar”. I suppose this avoids lots of fruitless pursuit of heterosexual men, and uncertainty as to whether or not the other person has any chance of becoming involved with a character at all, but it also means it’s less realistic, which is a shame for a serious drama. It also weakens the isolation of George when he seems to meet attractive gay men relatively frequently.
Nevetheless, this superbly made drama is touching without being schmaltzy and worthy of its hype.