Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Directed (and written) by Mike Mills. Focus Features, 2010. Staring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent.

Genre: Comedy, Drama.

Question: Do you think you became who you are because of the way your parents purposely raised you? Sure - it is natural to think that. But after watching Beginners today I now think it is also our observation of our parents as a couple that can also have a profound effect - both good and bad.

You can have a wonderful childhood. Your parents love you, take care of you, and fulfill your basic needs. But what happens when they don't really love each other? A child watching two parents who tolerate - not hate - and just merely exist in the same household can alter a person's path - irrecoverably.  That is the premise of Beginners. It isn't pretty but it is real. Perhaps too real for some.

Beginners is probably not for everyone. I, however, enjoyed it very much. It is slow, quiet and sad but filled with a glimmer of hope for better times to come. The story takes a look at some of the not-so-great emotions we humans endure in order to find the good in life. Many might not want to go through the emotional roller coaster that this movie takes but I recommend it anyway.

The film is about a young man (Ewan McGregor) whose father (Christopher Plummer) passes away and we meet him a couple of months after. He is going through the depression phase of loosing a parent but it goes deeper than that. He also lost his mother several years prior and after that his father announces, at the age of 75, that he is gay and out. Now I am not spoiling the movie for you with this information because it is all said within the first five minutes. This movie is about a journey that the young man takes and how he comes out on the other end.

The movie follows a convoluted path with some in the present not too soon after his father's death and with flashbacks of his father's life as an out and about gay man. In addition we see some childhood memories of him and his mother.  As a young boy he witnessed his parents and their relationship or lack thereof. It effects him so much that he has difficulty with other relationships. However, he becomes a compassionate person despite the unconventional upbringing.

There are also some odd storytelling quirks thrown in that I rather enjoyed. This is definitely an independent film that doesn't follow much of the Hollywood standards.

I sat there totally drawn in - watching a person at a vulnerable state in their life while still having compassion was intriguing. The cinema, for me, is not just about escaping your reality to witness someone gain some inexplicable power or watch two people falling in love despite the obstacles set in front of them. It is about exploring human nature and what all that means. We are flawed, we are illogical and we can't help who we love. We cannot control any of those things and why should we? Beginners was brave enough to discuss these points. Bravo!

Ewan McGregor was perfect in this role. No, I am not saying that just because he is my all time favorite actor. He is a great actor and he had to show a lot of restraint mixed with deep feeling sometimes with just his eyes. I felt his pain, joy, and his sadness. Sorry, but when he teared up - so did I. Christopher Plummer was also fantastic. Watching a man finally live his life the way he always wanted after denying who he truly was for 50+ years was magical. Plus, the father/son relationship was a dear thing to witness.

Beginners explores a part of human nature that is sometimes hard to watch or understand. But I think we, as moviegoers, need that type of escape if only to allow us to reflect on our own lives once in a while. I will admit it was heartbreaking to watch the relationships end. However, when one thing ends something always begins.

My favorite thing: Ewan McGregor, of course!

My least favorite thing: It was a little slow and think that will turn many people away from seeing this film.

Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

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