A Single Man Movie Review

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As you'd expect from a designer, every frame in this film is visual perfection, capturing settings and characters with artistry that packs a real wallop. And if the overall film feels a little icy, it's also remarkably involving.

In 1962 Los Angeles, George (Firth) is a university professor whose boyfriend (Goode) has died in a car crash. Unable to cope with his grief, or to show it to anyone, he tries to go through his day as usual. His next lecture derails into a message about fear in society, and he decides to put his life in order before committing suicide. But a last evening with his boozy best friend Charlotte (Moore) and the attentions of a Spanish hunk (Kortajarena) and a bright-eyed student (Hoult) test his resolve.

Based on a Christopher Isherwood novel, this film is a tightly wound, economic drama. There isn't a wasted moment in the film; Eduard Grau's cinematography and Dan Bishop's production design are exquisite, even if this is a too-beautiful, Madison Avenue version of 1962 Los Angeles in which everything is gleaming and new. But everyone looks stunning in their luxuriant hair, shiny cars, linear architecture and, of course, impeccable clothing.

The actors all lift their characters above this gorgeousness. Firth is transparent as the steely, fragile George, who looks out at a world that has been bleached of colour. As sees life emerge within and around him, so do we; and this has as much to do with Firth's astounding performance as with the inventive colour-saturation effects. And the supporting cast is wonderful.

Moore gives the flamboyant Charlotte both outer bluster and inner soulfulness, while Hoult is playfully insinuating and Goode adds texture in flashback as the idealised dead boyfriend.

Where the film finds resonance is in its examination of how private and public lives collide so dramatically, especially in an era as repressed as early 1960s America. Not that things have changed that much in the intervening years. As George observes in his meandering lecture, society always oppresses a minority it's afraid of, whether those fears are grounded in fact or not, and especially if members of that minority aren't plainly visible.

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A Single Man Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 15, 2009

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