Written by Christopher Isherwood

 Colin Firth, Julianne Moore



A Single Man




“A Single Man” is the story of George, a gay man in 1962 Los Angeles, whose partner of 16 years died a few months ago in an automobile accident.  As Colin Firth plays him he has been disconsolate ever since, and is now contemplating suicide.  From a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the film is about George’s last day.  He has a gun, he buys bullets for it, he teaches a college class in Aldous Huxley’s work, a student who seems to have a crush on him corners him after class, then ends up that evening in George’s house.  George has an old friend, Charley (Julianne Moore), a beautiful alcoholic with whom George had once had an affair.


As the day winds on and George tries out different places for his suicide, he thinks back on his partner Jim, and that’s where the film goes off its track, I believe.  There is a photo of Jim, nude on a beach, and we are supposed to think of it as a memento of their life together.  But the photo is just a piece of gay porn; what it should have been is a photo of the two of them, nude or not, in happier days.  It’s what you and I would be drawn to if we lost our loved partner, but director Tom Ford has demeaned the relationship of the two men by showing only Jim, nude, instead of the two together. 


Firth has held himself back so severely in “A Single Man” that we barely get a glimpse of who and what he once was, in love beyond words, and that is just another failing of the film.  I’m aware that in the United States in 1962 it was beyond the realm of possibility for two men to be open about their relationship, but Firth might as well be mourning the loss of a dog as a partner in love.  We feel badly for him, but one can easily get another dog; the loss of one’s love is too hurtful for this film to express, and so it loses much of its power.