A Single Man, Tom Ford’s directorial debut, has been called indulgent and over-directed. It’s inspired bon mots about shared traits with a runway model—gorgeous but vapid. These qualifiers amuse me, but I can’t dismiss Ford’s tale of a grieving English prof in 1962 Los Angeles that easily. Too many years in the fashion biz may have trained Ford to privilege the surface of things, but his adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel—a vanity project funded out of Ford’s own natty pocket—is unexpectedly touching, especially in light of his brash narcissist persona. Ford’s contempt for squares beats under the gleaming skin of A Single Man, but contempt has its place within the limits of the narrative, and it’s certainly germane to our larger world, which makes social existence hellish for nonconformists—for minorities, as the hero calls them during a diatribe about fear and persecution before a rapt English class.