“Beginners”: Late-Outed Father and Romance-Lacking Son

You may have missed it due to limited release in theaters, but if you’re currently looking for a movie rental during the holiday season, particularly near New Year’s, the semi-autobiographical (written and directed by Mike Mills) and award-winning dramedy Beginners (2011) is a good place to start. (Pun intended.)

Starting over and beginnings, you see, are what it’s all about. It’s the sweet story of a 38-year-old man named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who’s dealing with both the recent death of his father (Christopher Plummer in a highly praised performance) and the difficulties of finding romantic love that lasts.

Beginnings:

  • Oliver gets a fresh chance to try romance again when, dressed as a Freud lookalike at a costume party, he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), who becomes his mock “patient.”
  • Oliver takes in Arthur, his father’s adorable Jack Russell terrier who’s enchantingly capable of revealing some of his thoughts to us.
  • Hal, Oliver’s dad, is seen in flashbacks coming out as gay at the age of 75, after his wife has died. A restart of sorts for both him and his son.

Below, the trailer:

David Edelstein, movie critic, New York Magazine:

Mike Mills’s marvelously inventive romantic comedy Beginners is pickled in sadness, loss, and the belief that humans (especially when they mate) are stunted by their parents’ buried secrets, their own genetic makeup, and our sometimes-sociopathic social norms.

Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post further explains both the particular social norms in question and the effects on adult children of our parents’ secrets:

Mills has described his film as a contrast in obstacles: the cultural, external ones that might lead a gay man of the Greatest Generation to marry and be a dedicated husband and father; and the internal ones that leave his son with plenty of opportunities to be ambivalent and tentative about romance.

If you like indie films that offer up some quirky realism about families and the individuals who are shaped by them, I strongly encourage you to consider Beginners.

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