Starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent
Written and Directed by Mike Mills
Distributed by Focus Features
Every summer, a few films come along for those of us who want a little variety along with our special effects and explosion blockbusters. These films know they aren’t going to win you over with flash so they have to do it the old fashion way; good story. Last year The Kids are Alright was the best of these summer offerings, and this year the title belongs to the Ewan McGregor/Christopher Plummer dramedy, Beginners.
While he will always be Captain von Trapp for me Christopher Plummer gives one of the best performances of his career as Hal, a man who after his wife of 44 years passes away announces to his son Oliver (the adorable, as always, McGregor) that he’s gay. Instead of estranging them the revelation actually brings the father and son closer, as Oliver is happy to see his father for who he really is for the first time in his life.
When Hal later learns that he has terminal cancer father and son grow closer still, both knowing now more than ever they have to make every second count. Plummer and McGregor have an effortless chemistry when sharing the screen together, and it’s easy to imagine they’re family.
One of the most interesting things about the film is the script, which bounces back and forth through time. As an audience we see glimpse’s into Oliver’s childhood, his adult relationship with his father, as well as the period after Hal’s death. While grieving for his father Oliver begins a romance with French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent). While films that bounce around time periods can be confusing at times, the structure of the film in fact helps the audience understand how one period of Oliver’s life affects the other.
Laurent, who we all loved in Inglorious Bastards, is great here as well. She pulls off the “I’m French so I’m too cool for school” vibe that us North Americans despise/idolize perfectly. A character hasn’t inspired this much adoration from me for her outfits since Zoe Deschenel in 500 days of Summer. Laurent and McGregor are both strong performers who make the most of their scenes together, but honestly the only weak point of this entire film is their love story subplot. For all the interesting things this film has to say two educated, privileged white people feeling depressed over their inability to commit is tired and uninteresting.
Despite that one small hiccup, Beginners is an absolute delight and one of the most charming films I’ve seen in a very long time. So before you head out to see Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean 12, I urge you to check out a film that dares to make you think in the hottest months of the year.