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A Single Man
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the subject matter of this 1960s-set indie drama -- which centers on a man who's deeply mourning the loss of his longtime boyfriend and is desperate to find a reason to go on -- may be too heavy/morbid for younger teens (and even some older ones). The idea of suicide is explored, and the main character's world feels incredibly bleak at times, though he does manage to find moments of joy. Expect a fair amount of male nudity (though no frontal shots), plus some smoking, drinking, and swearing ("s--t").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
George (Colin Firth), a British professor teaching in 1960s Los Angeles, is bereft. With his beloved longtime boyfriend, Jim (Matthew Goode), gone -- killed in a car accident -- it’s increasingly difficult for George to find a reason to go on. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same name, A SINGLE MAN follows George from morning to night at his job, during run-ins with his neighbor (Ginnifer Goodwin), at dinner with his best friend (Julianne Moore), and through time spent with a student (Nicholas Hoult) -- a fateful day when he tries to arrive at the meaning of it all and decide what his future holds ... if anything.
Is it any good?
It’s no surprise that Tom Ford, the visionary behind the magnificently tailored Gucci line, has fashioned a stunning film. Every scene is elegantly framed, lit, and hued; every character is sophisticatedly turned out. In this way, A SINGLE MAN is a singular feat, easily one of the handsomest movies made in 2009. But though he displays a sure hand as director, Ford’s approach to the material rests a bit too heavily on the visual and too gently on the emotional -- surprising, considering that the film is about a man deeply in mourning. Somehow it all comes off a bit clinically -- life here is too beautifully tragic. You wonders what kind of heft the story would have carried had it not been pintucked so carefully.
That said, Firth is remarkable as a man in love but lost. His restrained-but-obvious grief rescues the movie somewhat from its too-pretty perch. Nobody does “damaged hysteria” better than Moore, but it’s too reminiscent of her other roles (Boogie Nights, for instance), which makes it less potent. It’s clear that Ford has respect for his actors’ gifts, but the ending isn’t credible, and the storytelling is oddly removed and stripped of authentic melancholy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays loss. What would it be like to be in George's shoes? Have you ever lost a loved one? Do George's feelings and reactions seem realistic?
How do society's norms during the time the movie takes place affect George's sense of isolation? How have (or haven't) things changed since then?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.