Plot: What’s it about?
I realize we’re a few months past the Oscars, but sometimes Oscar-nominated films come out on DVD/Blu-ray after the fact. Such is the cast with “A Single Man”, starring Colin Firth. Firth is probably best known for his role as Mark Darcy the “Bridget Jones” movies as well as playing Mr. Darcy in the UK TV series “Pride and Prejudice.” Firth has established himself as a competent, first rate actor though never really attaining the stardom of other British actors like Hugh Grant or Anthony Hopkins. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, as Firth continues to deliver strong performances in each film he’s in. Write and Director Tom Ford comments on this in one of the featurettes and how he considered Firth for the part. Ford first read the book some twenty five years ago and it’s just now making its foray to the screen.
Firth plays George, a British transplant in California who’s a professor of English at a local university. He’s just lost his longtime companion, Jim (Matthew Goode) in a car accident and is beside himself with grief. On this day George decides that it will be his last. We journey through the day with George when he first wakes up, showers and eventually gets dressed and leaves the house. He’s forlorn, unhappy and clearly at the end of his rope. The film is set in 1962 and even in progressive California, men with lovers of the same sex wasn’t exactly thought kindly of. George’s only friend is Charly (Julianne Moore), an aging woman whom he knew in London. Her husband has divorced her, her child has grown up and although George is homosexual, Charly has romantic feelings for him. George reminisces throughout the day of his life and times with Jim. We also meet one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who seems just a bit more interested in George than a student should. As we follow George throughout the day, we know it will end. But how?
“A Single Man” isn’t a pick-me-up, “feel good” movie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It deals with some hard issues, death, resentment and regret (and lots of it). Losing a loved one is perhaps one of the hardest things that we’ll ever experience in our lives and we follow someone throughout the day who’s made up his mind to commit suicide. Although I’ll leave the ending a mystery, I can say that the movie does show us what’s in front of us if we just look. Firth’s Oscar nomination was certainly well-deserved, though he ultimately lost to Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart” (which was well-deserved itself). While repeat viewings of “A Single Man” probably aren’t in order, it is a powerful movie that’s well acted, written and moreover well made. Recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Sony has presented “A Single Man” in a somewhat subdued-looking 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer. The color palette used here is very bland and it certainly parallels the look and tone of the film itself. Flesh tones seem a bit washed out, yet the detail level is up to par. We see the inside of George’s house and I could make out the tiniest things in the background. The grain of the wood, the labels on his food. Amazing. We can also see that Firth looked decidedly older in this film and the wrinkles on his face are a bit more prevalent as is the grey streaks in his hair. This is pretty much what we’d expect for a day and date release and “A Single Man” looks decidedly good, but with a limited palette.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack isn’t one that will really be remembered, as dialogue takes front and center here. Still, there are a few examples of surround sound, namely in the flashback scenes. Vocals do sound very rich and strong though and with what limited help we get from the surrounds; it does help with the ambiance. Some movies rely on sound to heighten the mood and others for sheer effect. “A Single Man” seems to use the bare minimum when it comes to audio, but it’s how it’s used and how frequently that matters.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Regarding the supplemental material, we don’t get a whole lot here. The commentary track by writer/director Tom Ford is certainly engaging. He does tell of his long history with this particular work and he’s obviously passionate about it. We get a look at the making of the film in the aptly-titled “The Making of ?A Single Man'” and the movie is equipped with Sony’s MovieIQ with up-to-date cast bios via the IMDB.