What Is the Movie "A Single Man" About?

by Noel Shankel

"A Single Man" was released in 2009 to mainly rave reviews.

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

"A Single Man" stars Colin Firth as a gay English professor trying to cope with the death of his partner in 1960s Los Angeles. Set shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film's central theme revolves around overcoming fear and learning to live again. Critics praised the film, citing Firth's performance as one of the best of the year.

The Basic Plot

"A Single Man" takes place over the course of one day -- November 30, 1962 -- and focuses on a British-born English professor working at a Los Angeles college who decides to take his own life at the conclusion of the day. Colin Firth plays the professor, George Falconer, who spends his last day teaching his class about fear and having encounters with his old friend Charley (Julianna Moore), a student by the name of Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult) and a Spanish gigolo named Carlos. Devastated by the death of his partner Jim, who died in a car crash, George plans on shooting himself at the end of the night, but soon rediscovers a passion for life and begins to question his decision.

Spoiler - The Ending

Towards the end of the film, George goes skinny dipping with his student Kenny after running into him at a bar. After skinny dipping, the two return to George's home for a few more drinks before passing out in separate quarters. When George awakes, he finds Kenny, still passed out, clutching the gun he was going to use to kill himself. George removes the gun from Kenny's hand and puts it away. For the first time, George has found inner peace, no longer wishing to end his own life and no longer overly distraught about the passing of his lover. However, shortly after this revelation -- which is portrayed through a voice over narration -- George suffers a heart attack and dies. Seemingly, fate was going to take George's life one way or another that night.

The Inspiration

The motion picture "A Single Man" was inspired by the novel of the same name penned by Christopher Isherwood in 1964. Along with screenwriter David Scearce, fashion designer Tom Ford crafted an adaptation of the book. "A Single Man" marks the directorial debut for Tom Ford, who also produced the film. In the original book, George did not have a last name. Tom Ford gave him the last name of Falconer, which was inspired by his first lover's surname and the sunglasses Tom Ford makes within his company.

The Reaction

Critics responded favorably to "A Single Man," which received an 86 percent fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel raved that Ford's debut film was "one of the best films of the year." Critics mainly praised the performance of Colin Firth, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of George Falconer. With an estimated budget of $7 million, "A Single Man" ultimately made its money back and then some at the U.S. box office, earning $9,166,863. The film earned $217,332 during its opening weekend, playing on only nine screens.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images