A Single Man - 2009
A Single Man marks the directorial debut of Tom Ford. In where he demonstrates a beautiful eye for color palates, and its use to convey emotions throughout the entirety of his movie. Our main character, George (played by the amazing Colin Firth), wakes up from a nightmare of seeing his dead lover, Jim, realizing he is alone in his bed. Next to him, in absence of Jim, is a pool of black ink from the pen George left open when he fell asleep. Simple symbolism of the black hole the loss of his love has left in George's life.
Ford paints George, alone and depressed, getting dressed and ready for the day ahead of him, using a gray color palate that reflects the deep sadness that is holding him back. There is a distinct shift between the flashbacks to his days with Jim and his current day events. Ford made the flashback scenes bright and vibrant, to hit home just how depressed George currently is. This colors are injected, sporadically, in current day events, as key aspects of his life bring moments of happiness to him because they remind him of Jim. Simple things like the color of the eyes of his secretary, the fit bodies of a couple of young men playing tennis and the smell of a dog would be highlited with bright vibrent colors.
We learn that George is an English college professor. During class we can see that he can barely stay present in front of his class. His eyes wondering to the abyss from time to time. Here we meet Kenny, played by Nicholas Hoult, and how infatuated he is with George. After he is done with his classes, we see that George is making arrangements to commit suicide by the end of this day. Just before George is able to leave the campus grounds Kenny comes up to his car and tells him he is worried about him. Kenny says "You look like you need a friend" and for a brief moment a smile washes over George and we see the gray leave his face (this scene always brings a smile to my face, you realize that deep down all George wants is for someone to love him and or just care about him), George tells him his fine and leaves the campus grounds.
We are later introduced to Charley, played by Julianne Moore, a close friend of George. She invited George over for dinner and drinks, since both where currently going through moments of loneliness. Moore gives her character, your typical drunk divorced middle age woman, a degree of humanity that can only be described as beautifully flawed. She tries to fix their lonely lives by suggesting they re-connect romantically, but George quickly shots this idea down and you can see that this was her last attempt of regaining a normal life.
SPOILERS AHEAD - I don't want to ruin the ending for someone that hasn't seen it so please skip to the next paragraph. I have heard in many TV shows, movies and in real life, that before you die there is a moment of pure bliss. George spends almost the entirety of this movie planning out his suicide and thanks to a night out with Kenny he realizes that the deep sadness he is living is just part of life and that it's not worth killing yourself over it. We see George finally coming to terms with what his life will be going forward and actually smiling multiple times with excitement and this is where the movie, beautifully, decides to rip the rug from its audience. George dies of an heart attack (his heart problems where hinted at twice in the movie). It's a bitter sweet ending as we see him kissed by the memory of Jim and the screen fades to gray. I have seen this movie three times and all three times the ending leaves me sadden yet joyful.
This entire movie is carried by the eyes of Colin Firth, in how he is able to portray real sadness and genuine joy in key scenes. He is surrounded by a solid supporting cast that help his character arch grow throughout the movie. This movie wouldn't be the same without the decisions made by Ford to create the specific color palates to dictate how the mood of the scene should be interpret. There are multiple scenes in this movie that I wanted to hit pause, print the image I was seeing and hang in on my wall (I included one of my favorites above with the poster of Psycho looking down on George). To quote George, who was actually quoting Aldous Huxley, "Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you" and this is why I love movies.
A Single Man is currently playing on Netflix see it if you can.