Rated – R
Directed by Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent
Imagine growing up with parents who loved each other very much, but as a kid you knew that something was wrong. Then after 38 years of marriage, your mother passes away and your father finally reveals the truth: he’s gay. Your father is 75 years old, but still wants to pursue in a homosexual lifestyle and since he understands his time is limited, quickly finds a boyfriend who is roughly as old as you are now. Your father dies in four years.
There’s no surprise that Oliver (McGregor) would be a bit damaged from the avalanche of critical events and information he has recently been presented, and this is what Beginners is all about. The film jumps between three timelines: Oliver’s memory of his parents, the years between when Oliver’s mother and father passes away, and the present. The flashbacks remind and warn Oliver of his current situation, that he’s always been alone and incapable of committing to a relationship.
Then he meets Anna (Laurent) and temporarily his world changes. She is extremely unique, being beautiful and strange simultaneously, and the two fall for each other. Even though the pace of their relationship is of something from romantic comedies, it still captures a genuine reality of these two individuals struggling through their lonely lives.
Christopher Plummer takes on the role as Hal, Oliver’s father, with sincerity. He loves to throw parties and engages in his gay pride openly. Even though he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he lived in a relieved state that he finally confessed to his sexuality. There’s no doubt that Hal falls in love with his partner, Andy, and seeing it gives Oliver much pain. But what Hal was trying to prove to amend with his son was that it’s never too late to start over.
That is something that Oliver fights within himself while his relationship with Anna moves forward. In a very delicate conversation while both lie still in bed, they discuss their habits of always leaving. Anna leaves because of her profession as an actor, but Oliver leaves because of his constant doubt that what he sees is what he can believe.
This excellent family drama relies on a Jack Russell terrior as a voice of reason through Oliver’s painful process to recover. That’s just one of the quirky style decisions that this film contains, all of them that I loved. While Beginners has moments that are wrapped up way too neatly, it’s still a thought-provoking, indie gem with themes that anyone can apply to their own lives.