I debated posting a review of this movie because it deals with sensitive themes and relationships that are certainly uncomfortable to some. However, I want to share what I experience through films and literature–and if you decide you want to experience it, too, or avoid it altogether, that is up to you.
I learned about this film while watching James Lipton’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” feature with Colin Firth. As I am sure you know, Firth’s film “A King’s Speech” is up for an Oscar this upcoming Sunday. I still have not had the chance to see “A King’s Speech” though it has been on my list for quite some time.
I have loved Colin Firth since he starred as Mr. Darcy in one of the many iterations of Pride and Prejudice. Since then, he has been wonderful in Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually, and many more wonderful films. I picked those three to mention because I found his character in all of them to be so appealing and charming. I have not seen some of his more “serious” films and that is one of the reasons why I decided to watch A Single Man.
When James Lipton discussed the film with Firth, they showed a scene from early on in the movie. In this scene, Firth’s character learns that his gay partner of 16 years has been killed in a car accident. To compound the tragedy, he learns of the death from a cousin of the deceased because his family never acknowledged that their son was gay and had a relationship with Firth’s character. Firth’s acting during that scene is incredible and I cringe now thinking about the way it made me ache in sympathy. Imagine loving someone for nearly two decades only to learn of their death from a family member you had never met because their parents refused to acknowledge your relationship. It is a dark film, to say the least. Framed with the early tragedy, we watch Firth’s character struggle with the loss and contemplating suicide in his own, perplexingly organized way.
Firth plays a college professor in California during the early 1960s. The film chronicles his grappling with his partner’s death, flashbacks to the happiness they once had, and a conflicting relationship with a best female friend who happens to be in love with him (played by Julianne Moore).
I won’t give away much more of the plot in the case that you want to watch it for yourself, but as a former English major, I really enjoyed the irony of the ending. It was Shakespearean to me and, in a way, beautiful. I would consider this film to be challenging and dark, but also contemplative and eye-opening. I would recommend it, but only if you are comfortable with the themes.
**I should also note that the film is based on the novel by the same name written by Christopher Isherwood. It was considered to be the first “truly liberated gay novel” in modern literature.