Beginners: Uplifting and Heartbreaking Comedy-Drama
Christopher PlummerEwan McGregor...
Oliver (McGregor) deals with the death of his father, Hal (Plummer) as
he starts a relationship with Anna (Laurent), the only person he seems able to
talk to. Told in a non-linear structure, there are two separate storylines;
Oliver and Anna’s relationship with all its ups and downs and Oliver’s
relationship with Hal, who after the death of his wife, Oliver’s mum, had come
out and explored life as an openly gay man. Oliver gets to know a completely
different side of his father until terminal cancer snatches him away.
In contrast to Hal, who is something of a social butterfly, both Oliver
and Anna are more of the introverted types. It
takes actual effort to establish relationships, and even though they’re kindred
souls and alike in so many ways, they still find it draining to be around each
other a lot. They both try to reconcile their need for personal space with the
fact that they are each other’s best confidant and only outlet other than their
As actors, Laurent and McGregor are both understated yet so expressive.
They say so much with their facial expressions and body language that the
struggle between their introverted selves and their longing for human
connection comes across loud and clear despite never being articulated.
Hal is a truly amazing character and different to anything this reviewer
has seen before. He’s a man in his seventies whose wife’s death gives him the
opportunity to explore his sexuality. He never resents or regrets his wife or
his child; nor does he blame them for having to repress this side of him. On the
contrary, he was perfectly happy with his life and loved his family. He brings Oliver with him into his new life, giving Oliver the chance
to get to know and appreciate his father on a completely different level.
The film flits back and forth between the two storylines in accordance
with Oliver’s mood. We also get further insight into how he feels during these
little scenes where Oliver speaks in voiceover accompanied by a series of images
on screen illustrating his point. Also, while most of the scenes are framed in
a very pretty yet straightforward way, the focal point, which in most films is
usually somewhere on the side, is quite often set dead-centre, resulting in a
jolt to your senses. This is symbolic of the whole film, where the simplest
things have the biggest impact.
Beginners is deceptively small,
quiet and contained. But then it gradually overwhelms you, swallows you whole
and leaves you spellbound and devastated. Every part of the film fits together
perfectly, be it the acting, characters, story, direction; they’re all perfect.