Every now and then a movie comes along that triggers such an elated feeling of happiness that you’re smiling from the beginning to the very end. “Beginners” is one of those movies that manage to squeeze every positive emotion from the viewer and make them laugh, cry, or just simply smile due to the cute and charming nature of the characters. The film’s style has a unique, simple, but quirky nature to it while still holding tight to its values and remaining the extremely personal film that director Mike Mills intended it to be. Written by Mills and based on the true story of his 75 year old father coming out as a gay man after the death of his wife and dying four years later, “Beginners” holds tight to the message that our actions do affect those around us whether or not we realize or intend it to.

Something that always intrigues me in film is when the story is told from pure perspective, allowing us to know almost every single thought and observation that is going through our character’s mind. I’m not saying that this is a literal P.O.V. film, but part of the film is told through narration from the main character Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who often recalls several different versions of the same story. For example, when he recalls his father coming out to him he says, “I recall him wearing a purple sweater but he was really wearing a robe,” and you see both versions, first his memory and then reality. When Oliver is not explaining his thoughts or describing memories he projects thoughts to his deceased father’s Jack Russell terrier as though he is having a conversation with it. This method of story-telling gives us great insight on Oliver’s confusion when it comes to social interaction and his deep feelings of loneliness and need for companionship. When Oliver meets a girl named Anna (Melanie Laurent) and begins a relationship with her, his conversations with the dog become rarer as he finds some level of companionship and no longer feels lonely.

The complicated relationship between Oliver and his newly-out father Hal (Christopher Plummer) is very sweet, deep and personal. The complications aren’t so much interactive complications, as Oliver is very supportive of his father, but more psychological. Oliver seems to have difficulty coping with the idea that Hal had a forty-odd year long marriage that was, to Oliver, all a lie. Not only that, but Hal was never around to provide as a father figure for Oliver, supposedly always working at an art museum, leaving young Oliver to be raised by his mother who tries very hard to hide her depression. Upon Hal coming out, he gets a boyfriend, becomes involved in a bunch of gay activist organizations and lives a grand gay social life saying, “I don’t want to just be theoretically gay. I want to do something about it.” Even the news that he is terminally ill with cancer doesn’t slow Hal down and his strength certainly brings a lot of charm to this lovable character. Plummer does a fantastic job as Hal, giving the character a sweet and loving sensitive side while also having a bit of naïve approach to his new life, much like a young kid who’s recently discovered parties and alcohol. I personally feel that “Beginner’s” may allow Plummer to finally receive the Academy Award that he has so long deserved.

Mike Mills has done an absolutely fantastic job with this film which can best be described as an odd sort of coming-of-age story about finding out who you are, what your purpose is and what you can do for others, hence the title “Beginner’s”. What I take away from “Beginner’s” is a story about true love, both between child and parent and between two people. Everyone has their differences and it’s those differences that make a person who they are and what we should love about them. I truly hope that “Beginner’s” gets some recognition at the 2012 Academy Awards, because I don’t feel that I’ve seen a film yet from 2011 that has managed to channel such a range of emotion, from pure joy to pure sadness, as masterfully as Mike Mills has managed to do here.

“Beginner’s” is now available on DVD/Blu-ray.


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