Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, "A Single Man" tells the story of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a British professor at a Los Angeles college still reeling from the death of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), eight months previous. A late-night phone call informed him of Jim's car accident, and the subsequent shunning by the family of the man he loved leaves George in an isolated daze.
The film takes place over the course of a single day as George goes through the necessary rituals — dressing, teaching his class, going to the bank — while remembering the past in a series of flashbacks and preparing for the future by buying bullets for that gun he keeps in his desk drawer.
Still, George keeps getting pulled back to the surface by the people he encounters throughout the day — his alcoholic and garishly made-up friend Charley (Julianne Moore), a charming James Dean look-alike in a parking lot (Jon Kortajarena) and a fresh-faced and cautiously flirtatious student (Nicholas Hoult).
There are moments where the costuming, art direction and set design — all precisely exquisite representations of Southern California in the early '60s — threaten to overwhelm the film with excess. But even though Ford is clearly exhilarated by these aspects, perhaps even more than the story, Firth's hollow-eyed and moving performance keeps it anchored.
The artifice that threatens most to derail the film is an obvious photographic embellishment that floods the desaturated images with color when George's mood improves, but "A Single Man" maintains its tone of elegant soberness nonetheless.
DVD features: A commentary track with Ford, a making-of featurette.
— Dusty Somers