“A Single Man” (2009). Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode, Jon Kortajarena, Ginnifer Goodwin, Ryan Simpkins, Paul Butler. Director: Tom Ford. Screenplay: Tom Ford and David Scearce. Book: Christopher Isherwood. www.asingleman-movie.com.
They flicker ever so briefly and then dissolve into the darkness. Moments of clarity, those all-too-fleeting flashes of intuitive insight, sparkle luminously like fireflies in the night. They provide undeniable confirmation that all is right with the world, that we’re each where we’re supposed to be and doing what we’re intended to do. We often wish we could hold onto those shining moments forever, and some may indeed be able to do so, but for most, even recognizing such instances is a miracle in itself. The fulfillment that comes from such realizations can be blissful beyond belief; it’s getting there that’s the challenge. Such is the message of the riveting new drama, “A Single Man.”
George Falconer (Colin Firth) is a desperately lonely soul. This middle-aged British transplant lives a materially comfortable but reclusive life as an English professor in 1962 Los Angeles during the Cuban missile crisis. Outwardly he seems to have what most people want, but internally he’s seriously disillusioned over the state of the world, with its imminent threat of Armageddon, classrooms full of increasingly materialistic students, and his own intermittent health issues. But what pains George most is the unyielding sadness he feels over the tragic passing of his longtime partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), in a car accident. Carrying on almost seems more trouble than it’s worth, so George decides to pursue what he sees as the only logical course to alleviate his unceasing anguish—by killing himself.
The story follows George through what is supposed to be the last day of his life. He tells no one about his plan, but he meticulously goes about all the tasks necessary to carry out the deed, tying up loose ends and making sure that everything is done according to his wishes, right down to picking out the clothes for his own funeral. He’s determined to follow through on his plan with an almost relentless efficiency.
But as George’s day proceeds, roadblocks appear. Each is distinguished by an increasing degree of distraction, drawing George’s attention away from his quest. An inquisitive student (Nicholas Hoult) who seems interested in more than George’s literary knowledge engages the professor in profound conversation; a handsome man of the streets (Jon Kortajarena) tries seducing George into joining him for some afternoon frolic; and George’s best gal pal (and one-time romantic diversion), Charley (Julianne Moore), repeatedly phones her old friend to remind him about their previously scheduled dinner date.
So how’s one supposed to kill oneself with so much going on? It’s a question George is forced into asking himself, but the answer becomes increasingly elusive, especially when he realizes that such diversions prove that his world isn’t such a bad place after all.
So how does George specifically come to doubt his planned course of action? Each of the diversions he encounters force him to deal with life in the moment at hand—neither the past nor the future, only the present. In these instances, George evaluates, and reevaluates, his beliefs, the foundation upon which we all create through the law of attraction. His beliefs are thus shaped, or changed, to suit the prevailing circumstances. And given the joy that each of these newly created distractions provides, it becomes ever easier for George to forget about offing himself. In those episodes of enlightenment, those moments of clarity, the past and future dissolve like the firefly’s flickers, leaving only the radiance of the present—the only materialization that can be experienced and enjoyed in that instant, and the only one that even matters at the time, no matter how transient it might be.
This is a valuable lesson for those hopelessly locked into the pains of the past and the fear of the future. The past is behind us, and the future has not yet arrived, so all we have is the present, and the sooner we learn to make peace with it, the happier we’re all likely to be. It’s a shame that so many of us, like George, put ourselves through such torment in coming to that realization, but I believe most will ultimately be better off for having done so.
“A Single Man” is a masterful film, easily one of 2009’s best. I was particularly impressed with the presentation of the narrative as a story that’s not about a gay man coping with life and loss but about a person coping with life and loss who just happens to be gay. This represents a major step forward in the portrayal of gay characters as everyday individuals who live everyday existences (kudos all around for this accomplishment). Colin Firth’s performance is a knockout, too. He’s richly deserving of all the accolades he’s received thus far, turning in last year’s best performance by an actor in a leading role. On top of all that, the picture’s lavish production values, from set design to costumes and makeup, as well as its magnificent cinematography, make this movie a visual delight to watch from start to finish.
Moments of clarity seem to come along so seldom, yet we invariably cherish them when they do. One can only hope that watching this film will help us learn how to become better at drawing them into our lives more often. And what a life that would be.
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics (with an emphasis in law of attraction/conscious creation principles), free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to www.beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution, Sethnet Journal and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.