Tom Ford’s film debut is nothing short of stellar. A Single Man is the story of a homosexual college professor, George Falconer (played by Colin Firth), who must contend with the loss of his lover. It is a story about how to move forward, about dealing with the past, and about making sense of a loss.
Firth, along with co-star Julianne Moore, who plays Falconer’s friend and former companion Charley, put up Oscar worthy performances. When Firth hears his boyfriend has died in a car crash, there are arguably fewer better performances by any actor in a single scene. It takes a true actor to convey the sense of loss with such honesty. Firth is among the few who can play a man who is so alone and miserable, while simultaneously so incredibly kind and decent.
But this is after all a menswear blog, and this is after all a movie directed by the biggest name in menswear. No surprise that the wardrobe work is beautiful. The film is set in the 1960’s, so George wears Mad Men-esque gray suits with black ties, tie bars, and white shirts. But Ford seems to accept that he cannot perfect the look of that day, and opts to update the outfits with flawless tailoring. A blue blazer with gold buttons and a true-to-the-60s slim peak lapel steals any fashion-loving man’s eyes in the scene where Firth and Moore meet up for a date. A gray suit that he wears to work one day shows that dressing simply steals the show when everything fits.
Indeed, George is a man who cares about how he looks, a man with a meticulous eye for detail. In plotting his suicide attempt, he lays out what he would like to wear to his own funeral. He directs Charley to tie the tie in a Windsor knot, carefully laying out a jacket, shirt, and beautiful black shoes with so much care.
A brief interaction with a Spanish man, played by Ford’s model Jon Kortajarena, shows the degree to which Firth can play a man who so honestly and decently reflects on things even when confronted by lust, and the ability of Ford to even perfect casual dress. Jon K is in a slim fitting white tee, gorgeous raw denim cuffed high, black boots – a definite homage to James Dean.
And then there are the formal qualities outside of the clothing. Set in Los Angeles, the movie offers a nice break from the claustrophobia of a Madison Avenue advertising agency. The house is all glass, extremely era-inspired, breathtakingly integrated with the nature around it. The ocean is vast and expansive, beautifully shot by the cinematographer. When Falconer interacts with people, the screen goes from muted colors to saturated colors. Eyes constantly take over the screen. In short, everything on the screen is formalistically beautiful. And so, we eagerly await Ford’s next effort, if for nothing other than to look at.