Heartfelt and honest, Beginners is a wonderfully wistful film that charms with its portrayal of life’s doubts.
Heartfelt and honest,
Beginners is a wonderfully wistful film that charms with its portrayal of
this summer may have been rife with all manner of superheroes and robots one
film flew beneath the radar catching the more discernable audience member who
couldn’t stomach anymore Bayhem.
Beginners is as far removed from summer blockbusters as you are ever
likely to find. To call it indie
spirited would imply a grungy sensibility, art house implies too much ambiguity
and autobiographical gives a sense of doom and gloom. Instead Beginners is a personal and smile inducing slice of
life affirming joy.
(McGregor) is stuck in something of
a rut. Single and looking after
his recently deceased father’s dog he looks like a bit of a sad-sack. However, when he starts to look back at
his parents’ relationship he begins to realise that even in later life, before
their deaths, they struggled to figure life out. As he reminisces about his outted gay father Hal (Plummer) he meets French actress Anna (Laurent) and through her begins to
understand that life is about living in the moment rather than dwelling on the
past or future.
never pertains to be anything other than emotional investigation. Oliver lives in a sea of
loneliness. Sitting around his
sparsely decorated house talking to his newly acquired dog, Arthur, who he
converses with through the mutt’s subtitles, he has been deeply affected by his
parents’ false marriage. He
informs us that when they got married Hal handed in his homosexuality card and
his mother Georgia her Jewishness.
Here were two people living in a world where they could not be
themselves. Oliver on the other
hand can be himself but struggles, through his parents’ identity crisis, to
understand who he really is.
firmly on writer director Mike Mills’
own life experiences, Beginners is a subtle nuance on life and identity. The film flits from the present, where
Oliver and Anna court, to the past where Oliver watches his now openly gay
father embrace his homosexuality before cruelly succumbing to cancer. Coming from a graphic design/music
video back-ground Mills’ style is reserved while visually interesting without
ever being distracting. His use of
Oliver’s drawings to give us an insight into his mind-set is always a clever
device that does much more than word on a page could.
the board the performances are solid.
McGregor, although still slightly struggling with his American accent,
does depressed surprisingly well.
His foppish, almost boarding on Hugh Grant, hair and mannerisms lend
themselves wonderfully to the character’s constant state of inner turmoil. Christopher Plummer meanwhile is
magnetic in a softly spoken performance that bristles with childlike revelry as
he discovers more and more pleasures in his new incarnation as an out gay man. However, it is the luminous Melanie
Laurent who truly captures the heart.
Still best known for her film stealing turn in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious
Basterds she brings an innocent charm and verve to the film. Entering the film unable to speak, due
to a bout of laryngitis, Anna is immediately seductive with her saucer-eyed
flirtations. If anything the film
could have focused on her and Oliver’s relationship more than it does.
on plot but huge on heart, Beginners has that unique ability to be both life
affirming and critical all at once.
It will not be to everyone’s taste with its understated plot but it is a
film that warms in the best ways possible.