Evening Standard (Oct 16, 2009, by Nick Curtis)

Tom Ford’s first film is an accomplished period piece, a melancholy study of a bereaved gay Englishman in a society—1960s Los Angeles—that cannot acknowledge his grief. As befits the work of a fashion designer, it is immaculately put together and looks gorgeous. But with Colin Firth giving an impeccably restrained performance in the lead role, A Single Man also has a coolness that borders on the chilly.

Firth is “slightly stiff but perfect George”, a middle-aged English professor whose lover of 16 years (Matthew Goode) has died in a car crash. The funeral, a phone call distastefully informs George, “is just for family”. So we watch him trying to go through his normal day, his teacherly formality cracking under the weight of a silent pain that renders the looming Cuban Missile Crisis irrelevant. He delivers a snappish lecture to his students on fear of minorities, deflects offers of physical and emotional consolation, ominously loads a revolver.

Ford, who adapted the screenplay from a Christopher Isherwood short story, directs with admirable economy and frames each shot beautifully, but there’s a detachment to his camera. The world it sees is formal and flawless, from George’s sharp suits, modernist glass house and glossy Mercedes, right down to the font on his headed notepaper. The neighbours who think he’s “light in [his] loafers” are a picture-perfect nuclear unit. Even the rogue element, Julianne Moore’s soused and self-pitying divorcee, Charlotte, is decked out in couture and a bespoke English accent. There’s also a lot of idealised male beauty around.

Firth’s performance is strong enough not to be swamped by the production design. The flashback of him clinging, bawling, to Charlotte, accompanied only by mournful strings on the soundtrack, is terribly moving.

But Ford himself seems at times frustrated not to be able to penetrate the surface of this world, where gay men must dissemble and feign. Often, his lens focuses on an eye, as if it were truly the window of the soul. But on screen it’s just a big, blue, beautiful eye.

Entertainment Weekly (Sept 18, 2009, by Owen Gleiberman)

The most ravishing shot I saw in any movie at Toronto this year occurs midway through A Single Man. The year is 1962, and we’re in Los Angeles, where George Falconer (Colin Firth), a 52-year-old college professor from London who teaches English at what looks like it might be UCLA, has stopped at a liquor store. There, a hustler tries to pick him up. George is homosexual, and very much in the closet (in 1962, there’s not really such thing as out of the closet), and as the two drift into the parking lot, the sunset glows with a purplish-pink, nearly unearthly beauty. What makes it so splendid? “It’s the smog,” says the hustler, who’s coiffed like a barrio James Dean, and sure enough there has never been a sunset that looks like this outside of L.A. It’s the weirdest thing: Suddenly, a movie is making you wistful for the dawn of the age of air pollution.

George, it turns out, isn’t interested in the young man’s advances. He’s still in mourning over the death, in a car crash, of his romantic partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), a younger man he lived with, happily, for 16 years. To George, Jim is irreplaceable: his one and only love, his needle in the haystack. And all the beauty of the world is now just a reminder of everything he has lost. A Single Man is suffused with beauty (it’s a movie conceived in a swoon), and also with a sense of what 1962 was really like: the elegant streamlined clothes, the interiors that looked modern and slightly shabby-wooden at the same time, the more languid tempo that prevailed in an era before the electricity of the counterculture had begun to seep into everything. It’s the same mood, of course, that Mad Men evokes so brilliantly, only there’s a weekly-TV snap to the rhythms of Mad Men, whereas A Single Man is synched to the jazzy, laid-back West Coast melancholy of its protagonist, who has become addicted to his broken heart. Here’s a prediction: The movie will break yours as well.

Colin Firth has always been an intensely likable actor, at times even a heartthrob, but in every movie I’ve seen him in, he is always…Colin Firth: witty, slightly diffident, with that feeling of resign hanging over his every grin and grimace. In A Single Man, though, I felt as if I were seeing him for the very first time. He’s got a different aura, with mildly blondish straight hair and horn rims that give him the look of a bookish Roger Moore, and though George spends the movie swimming in regret, he still maintains a light, puckish air.  A Single Man is based on a 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, who wrote tales of liberated love in a pre-liberated era, and here, as in the movie of Brokeback Mountain, something richly ironic and emotional happens: Since the movie is set at a time before the lives of gay men were overtly politicized, and a man like George had to “pass,” almost invisibly, through his life, his erotic and romantic feelings are forced to flower, exclusively and almost luxuriously, inside him. The result is that this tale of passion in an outwardly oppressive era accomplishes what so many gay films in our comparatively free era have not, which is to transcend the very notion that sexual orientation should be categorized.

For Isherwood, who died in 1986 (at the age of 81), love was love, period, and Tom Ford, the first-time director of A Single Man, has taken that spirit and made something small-scale yet tender and memorable out of it. Ford, a former fashion designer, became celebrated in the ’90s for reviving the houses of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and make no mistake: He’s also a born filmmaker, with a rapturous eye, an instinct for how to stage a scene, and a feeling for that special place where sadness and happiness intertwine until you can’t pull them apart. The entire film takes place over one day, in which George, besotted with quiet despair, teaches his classes, gets drawn to the flirtatious gaze of an adoring student (Nicholas Hoult), and makes plans for the suicide he intends to commit that night. Firth plays him as a man of his time who can’t stand the way that the times are changing—he already senses the ’60s coming, and he sees civility going out the window with them. Yet he is also, in the most delicate and moving way, ahead of his time.

Firth’s performance is bound to win attention in this year’s Oscar race—he’s simply too good to be ignored. Julianne Moore is marvelous, too, as George’s divorced, tippling, slightly broken-down English chum, and so is Matthew Goode as Jim, who we see in flashbacks that present a domestic union of two men in the most simple, direct, and touching of terms. As Mad Man suggests, it may be a topsy-turvy world when we have to go back to 1962 to discover the people we maybe still are. But when that journey is undertaken with the debonair humanity that Tom Ford and Colin Firth bring to A Single Man, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

The Hollywood Reporter (Sept 13, 2009, by Deborah Young)

Designer Tom Ford makes a surprisingly successful leap from the fashion industry to the big screen with "A Single Man," a standout directing debut about a gay college professor who loses his longtime partner. The theme of the search for meaning after a great loss is developed with great sensitivity thanks to Colin Firth's moving performance in the main role
for which he won the best actor prize hereand should help the film go beyond gay audiences to attract the more mainstream attention of "Brokeback Mountain" and "Far From Heaven."

Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the screenplay by Ford and David Scearce is concise. It opens with a fatal car crash in 1962, in which Jim (Matthew Goode) is killed. George Falconer (Firth) learns about his lover's death the next day when a relative phones, but he is warned not to attend the funeral of the man he lived with for 16 years.

Brokenhearted and alone, he seeks comfort from his long-ago-flame-now-friend Charley (Julianne Moore), who obviously still is in love with him. But George is too devastated to be interested in either sex and even rebuffs the approach of a hot young hustler (Jon Kortajarena, a true James Dean look-alike). He tries to avoid getting involved with his student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who is just discovering his sexual preferences and aggressively courting the older man. Instead, he makes plans for committing suicide.

Most of the action takes place over the course of a single day in Los Angeles in the early '60s, when being gay was socially disapproved. The film brushes ever so lightly on the issue of discrimination, first implicitly, when George lectures his students on how society fears what it is not, and later, in a beautifully calibrated tete-a-tete between George and Charley, when she insinuates George and Jim did not have a "real relationship."

Through snatches of their life together, it is apparent that George and Jim had a very real and loving relationship no matter what 1960s America thought. Their love story is contrasted to the next-door neighbors, who are down-to-earth suburbanites busy raising families and building nuclear bomb shelters. When a colleague tells George there won't be time for sentiment when the bomb falls, George characteristically retorts that he's not interested in living in a world without feeling.

Firth's measured performance, delivered in a clipped British accent, has just the right restraint, and the intelligent dialogue is a pleasure. Moore is glamorous and likable as the alcoholic divorcee Charley, adrift without a husband. Goode and especially Hoult are just too perfect to be true, but they serve the purpose of offering George good reasons to stay alive.

In contrast to Firth's underplaying, the directing has its overblown, operatic soul. Ford is unafraid of such cringeworthy moments as playing an opera solo over a suicide attempt or having a nattily dressed symbolic figure in Tom Ford Menswear give the kiss of death to the recently departed.

In the same spirit, tech work is satisfyingly bold. Dan Bishop's stylish production design and Eduard Grau's cinematography set the film in a romantically idealized '60s world. The film score written by Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi is variegated and full of lush orchestral themes that salute Hitchcock and Bernard Hermann, among others.

Screendaily (Sept 11, 2009, by Lee Marshall)

Fashion designer Tom Ford gets it spectacularly right first time round in his directorial debut, A Single Man. This adaptation of the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood about a gay British college professor in LA coping with the death of his partner is both stylistically assured and quietly moving as it charts a day in a life that has been scooped out but also spiritualised by grief and loss. It also represents a quantum leap for Colin Firth, who gives his most nuanced, compelling performance to date in the lead role.

Warmly received at its Venice world premiere
there was a standing ovation for the director and cast even in the press conferencethis intelligent, reflective melodrama should reap more plaudits in Toronto. Once it steps outside of the gated festival community, however, A Single Man will need to put up a commercial fightdespite the rave reviews, the Firth-Moore pairing, and the media interest surrounding Ford’s first movie foray, audiences will still need to talked into an autumnal period drama about a gay 52-year-old mourning the death of his partner and contemplating his own.

But Brokeback Mountain has already done some of the prep work for Ford, and the awards season nominations this fine closet melodrama should receive will do some more. Given the right timing, A Single Man should play well at the broader end of the prestige arthouse market.

The script does a fine job of turning the book’s stream-of-consciousness narration into a more objective but still profoundly empathetic view of literature professor George Falconer (Firth), whose partner of sixteen years, Jim (Goode) died in a car accident eight months before. George gets dressed, watches his suburban neighbours from his perch on the loo and drives into work while the radio news yabbers on about the Cuban missile crisis (the film is set in late autumn 1962). He goes through the motions but flashbacks, restrained passages of first-person voice-over, montage, musical pointing and Firth’s sensitive performance reveal that this elegant, private man, whose suit (by Tom Ford, of course), glasses and hairstyle lend him more than a passing resemblance to Yves-Saint-Laurent, is nursing a hurt that time has not healed.

On campus, George departs from the set text to lecture his college class about minorities and society’s manipulation of fear. This being 1962, the gay agenda stays in the subtext of his monologue, and the tension this creates resonates throughout the film
which is in part about private freedom (symbolised not by sex, of which there is none, but more than once by nakedness) and public repression. Production design plays its part here too: George’s housean airy wood and glass modernist structureis open to wild nature, but all around him is a conformist, repressive, manicured suburbia.

Three pivotal encounters
with Kenny (Hoult), a pretty-boy college student who appears to be stalking George, with a Spanish rent boy, and with his best friend Charlotte, aka Charley (Julianne Moore) slice up George’s day and keep getting in the way of his early-flagged intention to commit suicide.

Though her ya-ya English accent is not the best she’s ever done, Moore is a worthy support to Firth as a lonely, gin-tippling woman who is still in love with her best friend (they had a brief sexual relationship many years before) and torn between sympathy for him and regret about what might have been if he hadn’t turned into a “fucking poof”. The film is good at evoking and sparking such complex emotions, but it resonates above all because of the way it turns a single man’s single day into a spiritual journey from despair to transfiguration.

The one real wobble in an otherwise stylish package is the director’s use of bizarre colour boosts
from the default washed-out look to blazing technicolourto signal moments of hope, life and redemption. The idea is soundbut it should have been more subtly managed.

Variety (Sept 11, 2009, by Leslie Felperin)

Like the speck of sand that seeds a pearl, it's the tiny fleck of kitsch at the heart of "A Single Man" that makes it luminous and treasurable, despite its imperfections. An impressive helming debut for fashion designer Tom Ford, who co-wrote the script with David Scearce, pic freely adapts Christopher Isherwood's seminal novel set in Los Angeles, circa 1962, in which a college prof (Colin Firth), grieving for his dead lover, contemplates death. Sterling perfs from a tony cast rep a selling point, but the film's ripely homoerotic flavor will make finding lovers in the sticks more difficult.

Described by novelist Edmund White as "one of the first and best novels of the modern gay liberation movement," Isherwood's "A Single Man" presents a stream-of-consciousness portrait of a middle-aged gay man, known only as George, going about his daily routine in early '60s LA. Ford's script, which, per the press notes, departs significantly from Scearce's earlier draft, remains fairly close in spirit to the original but departs from it in one major direction: Here, Brit expat George Falconer (Firth) is so bereft over the recent death of his longtime companion, Jim (Matthew Goode), in a car accident, that he's planning to commit suicide
a plot point that injects tension into what might have been too quotidian a story had Isherwood's template been followed to the letter.

Action is confined to a single day, during which George puts his affairs in order. Telling no one of his plans, he follows what's clearly a routine schedule
bantering with his housekeeper (Paulette Lamori), exchanging polite pleasantries with the all-American family next door and teaching his English class at a small college.

Already detaching himself from the now, George can barely muster the energy to argue with a colleague (Lee Pace) about the ongoing Cuban Missile Crisis unfolding on the news. However, one of his students, the beautifully chiseled Kenny (Nicholas Hoult, the kid from "About a Boy," now all grown up) insists on approaching George to discuss literature, drugs and life in general; the glint in Kenny's eye hints at something more than purely educational interest.

After a chaste afternoon encounter with a yet another gorgeous man (Jon Kortajarena), clearly a hustler looking for trade, George makes his way to the house of his friend Charley (Julianne Moore) for dinner that evening. An old friend from Blightly whom George once slept with, as flashbacks reveal, now-dipsomaniac divorcee Charley still can't accept that George, whom she knows is gay, will never want a "normal" married life with her, despite their rich friendship. Scene in which she makes what is presumably the latest in a long line of drunken passes at him is a classic, demonstrating extraordinary emotional nuance from Firth and Moore, both of whom firmly grasp the best roles either has had in some time.

Ford's largely delicate touch reps a pleasant surprise, especially given his only filmmaking experience hitherto has been overseeing advertising campaigns for Gucci and his own current, self-named line of fashion products. Clearly this is material close to his heart, and the empathy shines through. What's more impressive is the skill he shows at evoking quietly sensual details, conjuring how, for instance, sniffing a stranger's dog brings back memories of George's beloved pet.

Less surprising, given Ford's background, is the just-so exquisiteness of the overall look, not just in the men's clothes (Ford designed Firth's and Hoult's figure-hugging suits and casual outfits himself), but in the interiors and femme costumes, too, for which production designer Dan Bishop and costume designer Arianne Phillips respectively deserve co-credit. The way Charley's pink-and-gold parlor harmonizes not just with her sweeping monochrome dress but also her pink Sobranie cigarettes will evoke swoons of delight in auds for whom magazines like Wallpaper and Architectural Digest are holy writ.

Indeed, the period detailing is almost too perfectly done, to the point where one can't help sensing the adman in Ford, nursing every detail to look not just accurate but impeccable and fashion-forward. Avid fans of "Mad Men" will notice not only that those pink Sobranies featured in an episode a few weeks before "A Single Man" premiered in Venice, but also that "Mad Men" gets the occasional ugliness of the period's design better. An uncredited, voice-only appearance here by "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm further evokes the series.

It might be argued that Ford is so keen to show immaculate taste, he'll make sacrifices at the expense of verisimilitude, except that one key element in the filmmaking really does show an almost vulgar streak: Ford and lenser Eduard Grau's decision to play with the color saturation, so that the initially dun-and-dreary color scheme will suddenly morph in a single shot to a warmer palette, as if the lovely things George sees
a handsome face, a pretty blue dresshave literally brightened his day. The effect might have come off better if it had been more subtly deployed, but then again, that little quantum of kitsch might turn out to be what will make auds love this film all the more in years to come.

The Times (Sept 11, 2009, by Wendy Ide) - 4 out of 5 stars

It’s no surprise that the feature film directing debut of fashion designer Tom Ford is a thing of heart-stopping beauty. He celebrates the male form with a sensual reverence. He uses colour with the visual articulacy of Wong Kar Wai and frames his shots with elegance and wit. It looks like a Wallpaper magazine photo shoot styled by Douglas Sirk. But what is a little more unexpected, certainly for those who were suspicious of Ford’s background in the ephemeral world of fashion, is that this is no frothy, throwaway piece of pretty silliness. Rather it’s a work of emotional honesty and authenticity which announces the arrival of a serious filmmaking talent. There will be critics who will be unable to get past the director’s background, but rest assured: Tom Ford is the real deal.

Ford’s decision to adapt Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man shows that he is not shy of a challenge. Isherwood’s novel charts a day in the life of George Falconer, a recently-bereaved gay college lecturer in early 1960s LA. The book unfolds predominantly through an interior monologue, a device which is notoriously tricky to transfer to the big screen without resorting to pages of cumbersome voice-over. Ford sidesteps this by keeping the narration to a minimum and instead giving us vivid little glimpses into George’s bruised psyche with some well-chosen flashbacks.

Ford brings one major change to the material. Rather than wander from encounter to encounter through the day, his George is given a purpose
a suicide he plans for with the same precision and impeccable good taste that he brings to everything else in his life. Knowing that this might be his last day on earth, George sees the quotidian banalities of his day to day life with fresh eyes and a new appreciation. The nearness of death makes him more alive than he has been for months. To convey this, Ford warms the colour. George’s grief and loneliness is grey but he rediscovers the world in saturated technicolor. It’s an effective technique but could have done with being dialled down a little, perhaps more subliminal than overt.

In the role of George, Colin Firth gives one of the finest, most affecting performances of his career. Two moments stand out: a flashback to the fateful telephone call which told him of his lover Jim’s death. The camera rests steadily on his face as his world crumbles. It’s a devastating piece of acting. And there’s a lovely little detail later in the film
George buries his face in the fur of a terrier puppy, recapturing the sense memory of doggy smells and happier days spent with Jim and their own pets. More than anything, it’s Ford’s eye for evocative details like this that makes A Single Man such an impressive debut.

Please do not upload any images to

 your own website, club, group or
community's photo album. Thank you.


Click on boots to contact me