George (Colin Firth) is contemplating suicide. Everything is ready. He has notes lined up, his belongings are cared for, he has the suit he wants to be buried in ready, and his method is clear. He wants to shoot himself, but he can’t figure out how to do it.
George has gone through a lot, living in the ’60s and carrying on a 16-year relationship with his male partner. He hides his sexuality from everyone, ensuring his career as a professor remains intact. He is living what he plans to be the final day of his life, and he’s ready to end it, too depressed over the loss of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode) in a car accident.
However, he’s almost too polite. He doesn’t want his suicide to be too much of a mess. He has a lot of respect for his housekeeper, and considers the shower, pillow positioning on the bed, and even stuffs himself inside a sleeping bag to try and minimize the mess. Everyone who sees George tells him he doesn’t look right, and if the film itself hasn’t cemented his deteriorating mental status, this sequence does.
Tom Ford directs, a first time director, formerly a fashion designer. At times, the film looks like an advertisement, Jim and George sitting on the beach in stark black & white. You half expect to see a Levi’s 501 logo to pop-up on screen. At times, it is a bit much, overdone, and even gaudy, although there is a reason for it.
A Single Man sees everything through George’s eyes. He wakes up in a pale, ugly gray and brown world. The Cuban missile crisis is a constant background event, but one George could care less about. He won’t live to see any of the results anyway.
The film becomes about those moments of clarity. Color, deeply saturated and bright, seeps into the frame, his final day experiencing a highlight equal to that of his flashbacks concerning Jim. It is a connection he has that the audience can experience in some way, or at least understand. He realizes why he is alive, and is able to look past his loss and live, something that makes the film’s message entirely clear, even forcefully so. Living life to the fullest, enjoying what time you have, and taking in the little things is more important than the past or the future. A Single Man is about more than whether or not George pulls that trigger, but about how he learns to cope and deal while seemingly inside a jeans commercial. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Sony’s AVC encode handles the rapidly evolving and intense color palettes with ease. This is never a movie that looks natural. The pale flesh tones and lackluster browns that dominate George’s day are represented perfectly, while the blindingly warm neon-like pastels show no signs of compression problems despite their intense hues. People appear orange on purpose, the rapid saturation important to the film’s core, especially during a meeting outside of a liquor store around 43:57. An HD set without proper calibration will hate this movie.
The transfer remains sharp and firm, producing superb definition and detail. Close-ups are consistently impressive. A conversation at 1:16:00 inside a bar seems lit only by the glowing color, but still renders texture fantastically well, down to pores and other markings. This is generally the same with all sequences, even the mid-range remaining impressive.
Black levels remain firm, giving the film a nice sense of dimensionality. Scenes at night, including a flirtatious late night swim around 1:20:00, keep their depth. Contrast can be a bit pale, making the film appear as if it were shot through some sort of filter, which could very well be the case. The most glaring moment is the opening in the snow, where the whites appear bright yet faded, almost as if you’re looking at the movie through 3D glasses.
The grain structure is generally well resolved. There are those brief moments where the encode loses out, such as 1:00:29 inside Charley’s (Juliane Moore) home. The grain becomes a victim of compression, diluting the photography. Some chroma noise is visible on Firth’s shirt at 1:21:54 very briefly as well. This is a well-rounded affair regardless, maintaining the integrity of the source, which is really what matters. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
A Single Man is loaded with a quiet, poignant score composed by Abel Korzniowski. Loaded with violins, the clarity of this DTS-HD track is excellent. Instruments are precise and clean, providing a smooth listening environment that is never too aggressive or seemingly out of place.
Dialogue is firm and well balanced, with the exception of the opening car crash which comes through a few notches higher and hotter than anything else. As expected, the surrounds get little action, the nighttime swim being the only real highlight. Waves rush overhead, creating convincing movement front to back. A bit of bass comes into play with the roar of the ocean water.
Likewise, there are moments where George’s heart begins heavily beating, the subwoofer receiving a nice, soft, clean jolt with the thumps. It fits perfectly with the mood. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
A commentary from producer/director Tom Ford is preferred over the annoying making-of, which is constantly padded with extended footage from the movie, as if someone didn’t just watch the film anyway. Trailers, MovieIQ and BD-Live support are left. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]