A Single Man is a good movie, but not an entertaining one. Colin Firth delivers a quietly stunning performance as George Falconer, a middle-aged college professor struggling to get through life after the accidental death of his longtime partner, Jim. The movie is set in 1962 Los Angeles against a backdrop of fear involving the Cuban Missile Crisis and an undercurrent of anti-gay sentiment. The story revolves around a single day in George’s life – a day in which he goes about his usual routine while also preparing to commit suicide. Brief, intermittent flashbacks provide a glimpse of his 16-year love affair with Jim, whose funeral George could not attend because it was for “family only”. George’s overwhelming sense of grief and isolation upon hearing of his partner’s death is palpable… It’s a scene that could probably do more for the current crusade to legalize same-sex marriage than any petition or referendum.

As George goes through what he anticipates to be his last day on Earth, he interacts with an interesting mix of supporting characters including a hunky Spaniard (Jon Kortajarena) who tries to pick him up at a liquor store, a longtime friend named Charley (Julianne Moore) with whom he shares a deep love but no romantic inclination, and college student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), a kindred spirit who senses that something is amiss with the professor on this particular day (note: Hoult has grown up mighty fine since his role as the awkward kid who hangs out with Hugh Grant in the awesome 2002 flick, About A Boy).

A Single Man (not to be confused with the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man) was personally financed and co-written and directed by acclaimed fashion designer Tom Ford and is based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. Despite its artistic achievements and solid performances, this indie film will be hard-pressed to find a mainstream audience. Brokeback Mountain may have opened the door for movies about gay romance, but this film is unlikely to generate the same word of mouth. The audience around me was largely silent when A Single Man faded to black – mostly because nobody was sure what to make of the ending. Let’s just say that the ‘take-home’ message leaves something to be desired. But I still love Colin Firth and find him to be one of the best, most versatile and under-rated actors of our time.

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