A touching plot and unique storytelling that sadly soon becomes dull and self indulgent.
Director: Mike Mills
Screenplay: Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent
Length: 1 hour 45 minutes
After Oliver’s (Ewan McGregor) mum dies, his dad Hal (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet and is also diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film flips between Oliver and Hal during the last years of Hal’s life, and Oliver trying to recover from his death, during which he meets and falls in love with French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent).
Beginners started off promising, the narration from Oliver is unique, the cinematography is imaginative, the jazz music sets the tone beautifully and effectively and the dog Arthur steals every scene he’s in. Hal is from the beginning a fantastic character, the way he navigates and embraces his new found sexuality despite his terminal illness is presented in a both lighthearted and touching way. Also flashback scenes with Oliver as a child and his mum also serve to acknowledging the harm caused as a result of his lack of communication and frequent absence. However Hal’s scenes are sadly interspersed with a particularly dull romance between Oliver and his new girlfriend Anna after Hal dies. Neither character has any interesting traits, Ewan McGregor surprisingly putting on a poor performance with an accent that seems confused as to which part of America it’s from, and their relationship seemed entirely founded on the fact that they’re both sad. I also found the back and forth between before Hal’s death and after confusing and meant any suspense or story arc was missing because I already knew Hal was going to die and it wasn’t worth sitting through Oliver and Anna smirking at each other to get to that forgone conclusion so sadly switched off before the end.