#163 / 365 – ‘Beginners’ – 105 mins
Cinema Challenge #67 / 115
Depressive graphic designer Oliver (Ewan McGregor) has just fallen for French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent) in LA, when his 75-year-old father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), drops two bombshells. Firstly, he’s just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Secondly, he’s gay – a fact he shared only with Oliver’s late mother. Following her death, Hal has decided to come out of the closet in spectacular fashion. He acquires a younger boyfriend, Andy (Goran Visnjic), and resolves to make the most of his new lifestyle in the time he has left. Oliver, in turn, seeks to find the strength to confront deep-rooted commitment issues as his love for Anna deepens.
Written and directed by Mike Mills, “Beginners” is a quirky film about love, life and family with a sprinkling of comedy, and one that as an unconventional approach which works beautifully and gives the film a welcome and refreshing quality, something that has been missing in new films of late. Mills unfolds the intertwined storyline of Oliver and his father, Hal, in flashback keeping the viewer off-balance but at no point does the story feel disjointed along these timelines.
Mills also chooses to use stylistic short montages to summarize events going on in these time frames, and these prove to be very effective as well as charming to the film.
Acting wise everybody delivers impressively authentic performances that prove impossible not to like, but it’s the truly remarkable performance of Christopher Plummer which is full of soulfulness and celebration that is on different level, and I can quite easily say it matches his incredible Oscar nominated role as Leo Tolstoy, in ‘The Last Station‘ to make one best of the years best performances, if not the best – and again Academy please take note come award time in February.
Whilst Beginners offbeat style will not be for everyone where sometimes it can have a little self-indulgence, for me it proved one of the most emotionally and intellectually satisfying pictures of late and is definitely an independent film I recommend you seek out.