Friday, January 2, 2015

Beginners: Film Review

Released in the US 3 June 2011
Beginners (2010) is a quirky family dramedy, starring Ewan McGregor, who plays Oliver Fields, a 38-year-old graphic artist trying to overcome his grief of losing both his parents in five years.

I loved everything about this movie: the characters, the themes, the editing, the screenplay, the setting. It was lovely. Oh, and the dog, Arthur, will steal your heart.

It took me a while to select it from my queue of over 160 films about aging. But last night it popped up on THREE categories of recommended films--Independents, Quirky Romances & Critics' Picks. So I caved and watched it.


This film is based on director/screenplay writer Mike Mills' own experience. Like Oliver, Mills' dad coming out as gay shortly after his wife dies of cancer.

In the present, Oliver meets Anna, a French actress played by M√©lanie Laurent.  His relationship with her is interrupted by two sets of flashbacks.

The first set of flashback focuses on his relationship with his mother, Georgia--played by Mary Page Keller.  In his scenes with his mother, Oliver is about ten years old.

More substantive are the second set of flashbacks to the last few years Oliver spends with his father. Oliver is in his 30s; Hal is in his 70s.

The good news? Hal is embracing his authentic self, communicating more openly with Oliver, and experiencing a deep love with his boyfriend, Andy (played by Goran Visnic). The bad news? Hal is also having to manage his own losing battle with cancer.

Oliver's father, Hal, is played expertly by Christopher Plummer.  After finishing the movie, I learned that Plummer won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film.  At 82, he is the oldest actor to win an acting Oscar. And he was competing against Max von Syder, who was a few months older, and who was considered for the role of Hal.

While the film is largely based on the son's point of view, I thought the scenes with Hal were significant and insightful.   I am giddy to see an older character written and portrayed as a complex, dynamic, and vibrant person all the way through his life span.


Movies about Parents Active in the Dying Process
Novels about Older Men Facing Death


  1. Heading right over to Netflix to check it out--sounds good!

  2. I KNOW KAREN! I watched it twice the first time I checked it out!
    Here's my assessment:

  3. I remember seeing this movie in the theater and loving it. And you're right, the real gift of the film is Christopher Plummer.

  4. "I am giddy to see an older character written and portrayed as a complex, dynamic, and vibrant person all the way through his life span." Me too. I am going to watch this

    1. Thank you, Nancy, for connecting with my prose. I appreciate your kindness in quoting a line that spoke to you. I do hope that you enjoy the movie. Take care!

  5. I have heard of this and never watched it. It sounds fabulous and much better than I thought. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it; I'll now add it to my queue!

    1. Netflix recommended it to me in three categories: Independent, Quirky Romance and Editors' Picks. I also thought from the blurb it would be campy, but it has a feel similar to Amelie (2001) -- which I loved. I hope that you like it!