LONGTIME FASHION DESIGNER and first-time film director Tom Ford's A Single Man is good beyond expectation. Visually, the film's stylish impeccability will not surprise his closest watchers. Ford's film—about a gay college professor in mid-'60s LA who is mourning the sudden death of his long-term partner—at times features images of rippling male physiques that hearken back to certain fragrance ads, but as a whole, his film is to be applauded for its relentless devotion to aesthetic excellence.
Take, for example, the half-second glimpse of a trio of denim- and leather-clad greaser chicks in a parking lot, oozing chic with cigarettes and beehives; the camera's close inspection of insolently masterful cat-eye makeup; the careful observation of the masculine stability of a pair of leather-soled, freshly shined shoes. These are images we expect, and desire, from a man of fashion, and they are as good as anticipated, and well integrated with the mood of the film. So much so, in fact, that it takes at least half the film's runtime to realize how little meat is on its beautiful bones.
Man's simple story is a worthy one, though consider this fair warning that those seeking action should manage expectations: The aforementioned professor is George (Colin Firth), a handsome, meticulous man who, unable to cope with his loss, has decided to commit suicide. A Single Man spans the course of a single day, during which George endeavors to appreciate "life's little gifts" as much as possible, one last time.
It's a sad and slow exercise (at the screening I attended, one person in the audience snored), but it's also a heartfelt and proper romanticism of dapper homosexual domesticity, complete with a drunkenly fabulous Julianne Moore as George's best friend. Those attuned to the sensitivity of the film—and to its tender emotional bond to appearances—may never want it to end.