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March 29, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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A Single Man


Colin Firth is not an actor whose ‘talents’ I have bought into. Maybe it has something to do with the manner in which I was exposed to him—Bridget Jones’ Diary and Mamma Mia certainly aren’t the best introductions to the actor (though those films aren’t really good introductions to anything other than bad rom-coms, so that point is moot). I’ve always found him a rigid, unappealing performer whose stuffy ‘Britishness’ gets in the way of the film. In a sense, this is what makes A Single Man such a fantastic and unexpected piece of cinema, as it presents a Colin Firth who is capable of immense greatness.

Served well by the direction of renowned fashion designer and first-time helmsman Tom Ford, Firth plays George Falconer. Falconer is a gay English professor getting over the loss of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode, genuinely appealing in a role that demands such likeability). We follow him as he goes about his day in 1960s Los Angeles, and it is to Firth’s credit that we never once bore of Falconer nor find him unsympathetic. Firth plays Falconer as a man so uncomfortable in his own skin that he wears it like an ill-fitting suit—the shoulders are too wide, the chest is too broad, it hangs a little too low, the colour is just a little off. It’s an approach that pays off in spectacular fashion, with Firth giving the kind of character study that gets nominated for Oscars as a dark horse that’s more deserving than the winner. He’s a man we all know with the secrets we all keep, and Firth brings a powerful vulnerability and universality to the role.

Director Ford augments Firth’s performance with a designer’s eye for detail and an immaculate sense of style. With the loss of Jim, Falconer sees a world with nothing beautiful left, and the film follows him as he slowly rediscovers the world that he thought Jim had taken with him, something Ford realises with the kind of visual style seasoned directors wish they had. Ford’s direction can be overbearing and unsubtle, something most obvious in the moments when Falconer’s eyes open to the beauty around him, the strikingly grainy, washed-out film stock slowly saturated with bright colours and high contrasts. But regardless of this, A Single Man is an aesthetic treat, and as good a debut as we could ask for.

Directed by: Tom Ford
Part of the World Cinema Showcase

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