Friday, January 2, 2015

Beginners: Film Review

Released in the US 3 June 2011

(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 his mother and then responding to his widower father coming out as gay.

Christopher Plummer earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (and several other awards) for his role as Oliver's father, Hal. 

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.

It wasn't until I finished the film that I learned that Plummer won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. At 82, he is the oldest actor to win an acting Oscar. And that year he was competing against Max von Snydow in his role as "the renter" in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close).  Snydow was born just few months before Plummer and 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.


Films about Older LGBT people
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!