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 proves himself as a film actor once again, 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 loneliness 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 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. While this is done for narrative ease, the implication that when there are two attractive gay men at a party they implicitly know the other’s sexuality is far from the truth, contributing to the myth of the ‘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; a problem for a serious drama. It also serves to weaken the isolation of George which is the film’s core, when he’s shown to meet attractive gay men all over the place.
Nevertheless, it’s so well made that it manages to be touching without being schmaltzy and lives up to the hype.