Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
In a romantic comedy of appealing depth and thoughtfulness, Oliver, a Los Angeles graphic designer (Ewan McGregor, slow-burningly charming) ponders his budding new relationship with a mercurial young actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent). In effect he’s considering his own dismal record of commitment-phobia in the light of what he’s been finding out about his parents’ marriage. Providing punchy magazine cut-up collages to characterise each era, the film moves easily amongst several time periods to achieve an affecting appreciation of their uneasy union.
Writer/director Mike Mills (who is married to artist/filmmaker Miranda July) has based his film on experience: almost immediately after the death of his mother, his 75-year-old father announced that he was gay, always had been, and intended finally to do something about it. As Oliver’s father, Christopher Plummer is wonderful. He tempers the old man’s headlong pursuit of love and liberation with incredulous delight at his own lack of embarrassment. He is perfectly matched by McGregor and their tender mutual perplexity suffuses the movie. With its playfully loopy tone – the unspoken concerns of the Jack Russell terrier Oliver inherits from his father are conveyed in subtitles – Beginners is also thoroughly inflected with its young heroine’s delight in exploratory role-playing. Mills himself drafted the heart-breaking line drawings that are Oliver’s stock in trade. — BG
“This is a moving and layered work with lots of laughs and all the poignancy of a son’s love letter to his father.” — Pam Grady, San Francisco International Film Festival