This weekend I went to see 'A Single Man', a beautifully sensitive portrayal of a gay College Professor in the early 1960s secretly mourning his partner of 16 years who has just been killed in a car crash, but to whose funeral he is unwelcome because that's how it was in the 1960s.
There are various poignant flashbacks to their idyllic life together replete with a couple of dog 'children', juxtaposed with the progress of a momentous day in Professor George Falconer's life where his emotions are writ large against a day of extraordinary happenings and burgeoning awareness for George, even amidst his normal fastidious routines. All set against his beautiful designer house - surprisingly see-through for a man in the closet - his beautiful vintage car with a walnut dash to die for, his exquisite English-tailored suits and an early 60s California re-created down to the brave new architecture of the College he works at. Every human encounter, however brief, suddenly takes on a new meaning from greeting his (you suspect equally repressed) attractive housewife neighbour to the girl in the bank with a hopeful lilt in her welcome. Everyone exudes an early 1960s lushness. No one's latent sensuality is ignored, whether male or female, the relentless sunshine enhancing it even more, and contrasting still more starkly with George's inner mourning, despite being slightly cheered by each distraction and proof that perhaps he is not alone if he doesn't want to be. As the film goes on, you realise George's heart is broken in more ways than one as he downs an alarming number of pills amidst the drinks, yet outwardly he remains impeccable and impassive, until a concerned male student begins to perceive all is not as it should be and makes it his business to interfere.
Having started off by thinking 'How sneaky of director Tom Ford to cast Colin Firth as George to lure we heterosexuals into the cinema to see a film we might otherwise not have seen', I came to realise what a perfect choice Mr Firth was for the role with his understated elegance and disarming ability to switch from dry, nondescript College Professor to dewy-eyed romantic lover, brimming with a heady mix of longing and loss. Mr Firth is also at that perfect age - still physically handsome, but with an emotional maturity that makes up in male beauty for not being 25 any more.
Naturally George has a straight best friend (SBF) he turns to in times of trouble in the form of the stunning Julianne Moore, who plays the hapless, semi-alcoholic but amusing and devoted Charley, who has trailed him from England, seemingly in the forlorn hope he might again bat for the other side one day, having herself been married and deserted by someone else/the American Dream along the way.
The film carried echoes of Mrs Dalloway in the subtle dreamy quality of the filming, but with less surrealism. In A Single Man, you know exactly what is happening, although the end comes as somewhat of a surprise. And like Mrs Dalloway it is based on a classic novel, if by Christopher Ishwerwood rather than Virginia Woolfe.
But I won't spoil that ending by revealing it. Go and see this rare film about true love. It's more universal than you might imagine with its demonstration that love is love, whatever one's sexuality. And loss is loss. It has no need to bang any drum and it doesn't. As a breathtaking cinematic experience, it also takes some beating.