A Single Man – Tom Ford’s Midas touch.

Posted on February 28, 2010


Tom Ford is probably better known for his groundbreaking work with Gucci and for being the most stylish man alive than as a film director. And whilst his contribution to fashion is unquestionable, there have been a few raised eyebrows as to whether or not he can bring the same magic to the medium from the director’s chair.

However, this doesn’t seem to have daunted Ford. Without the support of a major studio, he has co-written, co-produced and directed his adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, A Single Man.

With such breathtakingly beautiful production design, costuming and photography, it would have been easy for this film to become an exercise in style over substance; however, this film is elevated beyond this by the stunning central performance of Colin Firth. Indeed, the whole cast is on top form, and there are fabulous turns from Julianne Moore, Nicolas Hoult and Matthew Goode, but it is Firth who steals the show, giving us a glimpse into a man with a broken heart who has given up on life, yet still has flashes of hope and retains his self effacing sense of humour.

It’s not all good news, however. The film is certainly self indulgent, and sometimes suffers from this. There are some motifs, such as the use of colour saturation at times of hope, which I felt were too overt, too heavy handed, and would not have seemed out of place in an art school student’s final film. At times the film feels like we’re watching a fragrance commercial or a denim advert, but this is outweighed by the overall tone of the film. For me, a lover of architecture and mid century aesthetics, this is almost design pornography, but the perfection of the production design is almost another character in itself, and this can be distracting to a degree, sometimes preventing you from fully immersing yourself. Despite these minor criticisms, overall the film is a resounding success.

For those of you with a more sensitive disposition, it is worth remembering that this is a film that focuses on a homosexual man and the loss of the love of his life. There are certainly some homoerotic moments, and for those that find this uncomfortable, I would suggest perhaps avoiding this film and getting a life.

Tom Ford certainly has the gift of excelling in whatever he turns his attention to, and film-making has proved to be no exception. I hope he continues to build on this very solid foundation.  Who knows, in years to come, we may come to think of him as one of the great American directors who just happened to be a fashion designer once upon a time.