A Single Man ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I've previously watched fashion-designer-turned-film-director Tom Ford's second film, Nocturnal Animals, which I thought was very good despite some glaring flaws, so I was curious to see his first film as well. Similarly, A Single Man isn't a bad film either. It is, in most respects, a pretty good film. It just has some problems that are hard to ignore.

Ford's films so far have been well-shot and enjoyable to watch. He is, however, a bit indulgent at times. His writing isn't always the best. He also has a track record of gratuitous weird decisions, much like our friend Paul Thomas Anderson. And so far he's two for two with films featuring characters who live in super-wealthy, austere opulence, which I personally tend to find tedious and distasteful.

The positive things about the film: It's a decent character study. The acting is very good for the most part. The photography and shot composition are beautiful. And it actually does some interesting things with color adjustment, rather than using it to drain all the color variation out of the image as so many films have done in the last decade. The score, by one Abel Korzeniowski (who is new to me), is very good, if a bit unnecessary in places.

The bad things about the film:

First, unnecessary voiceover narration. I'm not going to say it should never be used, but this film is a great example of why it should usually be avoided. It's used only at the beginning and end of the film, and in both cases the strength of Colin Firth's performance is more than enough to convey the same idea. It's redundant, distracting, and actually diminishes the impact of the acting.

Second, the ending. We spend the entire film building a case for why protagonist George Falconer shouldn't kill himself, only for him to die of a heart attack at the very moment of his Joycean revelation. Sure, it's ironic, but to what end? If it was trying to make me cry it didn't succeed; in fact I was so annoyed that it effectively blocked my ability to empathize with these characters.

Third, gratuitous artsy stuff. It's not quite on the level of the irrelevant dancing nude that opens Nocturnal Animals but there are definitely a few moments that contribute nothing to the film other than looking kinda neat.

But I'll keep watching Ford's films as long as he keeps making them. He seems to have some genuinely interesting ideas and I suspect eventually he's going to strike gold.

As a side note, this film is entirely about a gay man and the gay relationship that defined most of his life, but the poster was clearly designed to imply that it's a heterosexual love story. You've got a long road ahead of you, Hollywood.