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Beginners - Review


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MIKE Mills’ Beginners may have sprung from a deeply personal story but it boasts near universal appeal for those who can also dig its resolutely indie values.

Inspired by the coming out of his own father at the age of 75, following the death of his mother, and his dad’s subsequent death from cancer five years later, the film tackles a number of big themes.

But it does so in an almost whimsical manner by juxtaposing the often poignant drama that ensues with moments of heart-warming romantic comedy as well as surreal humour.

Ewan McGregor stars as Oliver, the frustrated and confused cartoonist at the centre of the story, who uses his father’s death to reflect on their relationship and his own life.

Christopher Plummer, meanwhile, is the dad whose life post coming out is seen via flashbacks.

Anyone thinking this is merely a film about sexuality and acceptance had best think again, however, for there’s much more to it.

Homosexuality is explored but more by way of how Oliver accepts his father’s bravery and revels in his joy.

But it’s also mixed with Oliver’s own relationship with a French actress (Melanie Laurent), who he first meets at a party while she is suffering from laringitis. The ensuing courtship is genuinely romantic and highly memorable.

And then there’s the question of the film’s dog: Oliver’s father’s prized possession who communicates with both through subtitles, thereby adding some surreal asides.

It would be a cold heart that doesn’t warm to some aspects of the film, if not all, especially in light of the affecting performances from all involved.

Mills, meanwhile, deserves credit for keeping things funny and moving without becoming heavy-handed or overly sentimental. Rather, he retains some of the indie and even arty values that made his debut film Thumbsucker equally appealing, while adding an extra layer of emotional authenticity that’s rooted from the film’s basis in reality.

It means that there’s really not that much to dislike about Beginners.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: July 22, 2011