Beginners is a semi-autobiographical film based on director Mike Mills’ father and life. The movie follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor), who receives two gut punches at the same time: 1.) His elderly father (Christopher Plummer) comes out to him and reveals he has a young boyfriend and 2.) his father also has terminal cancer. Oliver must deal with these bombshells while also navigating his romance with Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress.
The performances in this film are incredible. Ewan McGregor portrays Oliver as a loving son, a struggling boyfriend, and a graphic artist. He beautifully conveys so many different emotions, and endows Oliver with layers of personality. Christopher Plummer is charming as Oliver’s father Hal, and he brings a charm and vulnerability to the film. He shows how coming out allowed him to be a happier person, but also captures the nuances of battling a terminal illness and struggling with navigating a new world. Melanie Laurent is fantastic as Oliver’s girlfriend Anna, but I wanted to see more of HER, not just her role as girlfriend.
The aesthetic of the film is very simple and clean, yet packs a powerful punch. The story does feel oddly paced, though. Certain moments feel like they would have been better suited if they had been placed into different sections of the story, and the timeline was sometimes confusing, jumping between past and present.
I enjoyed Beginners, but was left wanting more. I wanted to know more about Hal’s life prior to his coming out and how he kept this secret for so long, and I yearned to see more of Anna as an individual. I thought the performances were great and I loved the clean aesthetic, but the story just didn’t do it for me.
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