film review: A Single Man (2009)


Usually you’d have to read me waffling for a while to find out if I actually liked a film or not… Not this time. This time I’m gonna come straight out with it…

I loved A Single Man.

A Single Man Poster Colin FirthI really feel it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in years. I mean, the last film I gave a 10 to on IMDb was Snakes on a Plane in 2006 and I stand by that, it was class fun, but the last film I saw that I thought was at this level was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind back in 2004.

I don’t want to rave about it too much though it wasn’t perfect. I gave it a 10 on IMDb because they don’t do half marks… still, I did think it was a brilliant movie. With 10 spots open this year for Best Film I can’t believe they did find a place for this… but hey, I doubt there’s anyone who’d be happy with all the Oscar nominees…

Did you see me stopping myself from starting to criticise it there? I guess being critical is a natural state for me. I’ll try to stay positive.

What I liked about this film was the depth of character. By the end of this film you know exactly where all the characters are coming from. It’s something that’s lacking in so many films lately. Also I loved that it looked so beautiful. Obviously I can’t help but think that this was because director Tom Ford is a fashion designer by trade… but equally you could say that it’s because of his aesthetic that he’s become a successful fashion designer and that it has translated to film as well. It seems that ’60s Los Angeles was a very stylish time and place. Everything in it looks stunning… even just the cars look fantastic. Actually I must go check what kind of car Colin Firth’s character is driving…

… ok. I thought that would be easier – to anyone who’s seen this film, do you know what kind of car George is driving?…

… What I really loved about this film though was Colin Firth’s performance. He really is brilliant, I mean even his eyelashes are acting in this. It’s a pity he’s not going to win the Oscar. I do hope though that this means that he’ll be seen in some great roles from now on and that he’ll get his chance again. He deserves it. I was really touched by this film and it was down to his performance. The supporting characters in the film, played by Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult and Julianne Moore, are all good as well but at the end of the day* this is the story of one man, a single man.

I mention earlier that despite my, hopefully somewhat restrained, raving about the film; I’m still only giving it 9.5/10. In case you’re curious that’s because of what I felt was an overuse of a particular visual device. If you’ve seen it you’ll probably know what I mean.

So needless to say I guess, I am recommending people go see A Single Man. Though I wouldn’t dare to call it an average film. It is bordering on arthouse and I don’t know… maybe it won’t appeal to everyone out there. If you liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or say… The Notebook, then you should like it. I’ll also throw Brokeback Mountain in there as well but I will say this, A Single Man is not a film about a gay single man. It’s a film about grief… and a film about life… it’s a film about a few things really so I think I’ll just leave it there…


* I feel bad for using the cliché but hey, I don’t think I’ve used it before

Update: May 2010:

First of all folks… Sean (in the comments) was right, George’s car in A Single Man is a 1958 Mercedes 220S. I know I get quite a few visitors looking for that fact so I thought I’d confirm it in the article.

Second of all… it turns out that the house in the film is on the market (correct as of July 2010) and has been since 2008. You can see the listing here.


  1. comment-avatar
    SeanMarch 8, 2010 - 2:11 pm

    Glad you liked (loved) the film.

    Colin’s car is a 1950s Mercedes coupe. Possibly a 1958 220S.

  2. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMarch 8, 2010 - 2:37 pm

    Ah thanks! Her car looked good too… i must see if I can find a “cars of A Single Man” article somewhere…

  3. comment-avatar
    M. Carter @ the MoviesMay 4, 2010 - 6:53 pm

    For starters: Great blog, and great blog name!

    Although Firth’s character is the focus of the film, there wasn’t really a “weak link” as far as acting (well, except for Julianne Moore, whose performance I didn’t care for that much). Matthew Goode manages to make a character onscreen for, what, 10 minutes resonate, and the camera loves Nicholas Hault.

    If I have one criticism it’s that the film looks TOO pretty (makes sense, since Tom Ford is a fashion designer). I thought the visuals threatened to overpower the characters, but lucky for us Firth is a strong enough actor that that never happened.

    Here’s my review if you’re interested:

  4. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMay 4, 2010 - 10:48 pm

    Hi M. Carter – Thanks, I had a look over at yours and I’m very impressed!

    As for A Single Man, I can see what you mean but I can’t say I agree. I thought the beauty of it did work – reflection of the character blah blah, I don’t usually go in for the big analysis. I did think the desaturation/over-saturation was overused though to the point that it was annoying… that’s why I docked it half a mark…

    I really do think Firth put on an amazing performance, slightly different for me on the support characters though. I liked Moore but I wasn’t too pushed on Nicholas Hoult. I suspect this may just be because I can’t get his character in Skins out of my head though. Have you seen it?

  5. comment-avatar
    CharlesMay 11, 2010 - 4:49 pm

    Have to say, I know exactly what you mean by the design potentially often being close to damaging the piece as a whole, especially when they’re sunbathing on that gargantuan rock and it just looks like an ad for the fall line. But when you’ve actors like that, all on top form and a very subtle script, it can take it.

    Great movie.

  6. comment-avatar
    RonanJune 16, 2010 - 7:05 pm

    ‘even his eyelashes are acting in this’- great line Nicola. I like the look of your site, it looks professional, well organised and sharp. Haven’t seen this one yet but I keep hearing great things, and from your review it sounds worthwhile.

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