When George (Colin Firth) loses his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) after sixteen years together, the color has disappeared from his life. He goes through the routines, thinking often of the past; his primary connections are his students at the small university where he teaches and an old friend Charley (Julianne Moore).
His next-door neighbors have two small children, and the occasional noise and other activities sometimes feel like an intrusion into the quiet life he now lives.
Then one day a student seems to connect to George and a dialogue begins.
Meanwhile, however, George seems to be going through a process—getting his papers in order; picking out a suitable outfit; and buying bullets for his gun. As he moves slowly forward toward some kind of conclusion, we see fewer flashbacks into memories.
What happens ultimately, however, is a surprising “intrusion” that is unexpected and perhaps fortuitous. But then, just when we believe we know what will happen, another unexpected event turns everything around again.
Throughout A Single Man, I noticed the visual effects that set the past and present apart. The film makers displayed the past moments in vivid colors, while the present lacked the depth of tone. The present seemed almost cloaked in sepia tones, but not quite.
The setting for this movie was 1962 LA, with the Cuban missile crisis casting its own pall over the characters’ lives. There were many things that showed us this time period–rotary telephones; older cars; clothing; hairstyles; and, of course, the sense that the characters were grabbing life’s pleasures when impending doom seemed to lurk. Another telling aspect of the times was the “secrecy” surrounding George’s homosexuality, a definite pointer to a less accepting period in our history.
After I watched the movie, I felt depressed and cloaked in the futility of life and any kind of a future. It reminded me of how I felt during that year, when as college students, we listened to our professors as they vividly described the political climate in which we lived.
I gave the film four stars, primarily because I didn’t really like it. I got the message and I thought the different shades of color were a clever way to distinguish past and present. But aside from that subtle distinction, there was little about the movie that would linger on in my mind or add anything to my repertoire of memories.