Beginners is a celebration of life that is both delicate and riotous. It follows Oliver, whose father at the age of seventy-five reveals that he is gay. Based on the true story of writer and director Mike Mills, the narrative flickers across time as Oliver encounters his father’s new-found lust for life. Alongside this, we see Oliver deal with death in his family, resurgent moments of childhood and his attempt to hold onto romance.
With acclaimed performances from Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent, this film has successfully charmed the festival circuit and picked up numerous high-praising reviews. I will not spend time discussing what a quick Google search can tell you; this film is worth seeing for the sensitivity with which it deals with issues relating to homosexuality, cancer and the beauty of life.
For me, this feature stood out because of the way it captured fleeting moments of emotion in a way rarely seen in film. Often wrapped in a loud silence, the chemistry between characters or the cinematography spoke volumes above the dialogue. As a director, Mills clearly was not afraid of balancing the snappy, light-hearted pacing of plot-building scenes with a sedate, lengthier approach where emotion was the focus. Moments of dissatisfaction, where Oliver’s mother receives a fleeting kiss as his father walks out the door. Moments of loneliness, contemplating an empty house. A silent phone call. The quiet of a business deal that both sides know has fallen through.
In an era of film, where too often we are led blind-folded through plot and characters, it is refreshing to find a story that does not join the dots for us. As an audience we are left to contemplate, to consider and to enjoy the exuberance of what appears before us. It has been criticised for being unrealistic and if you are seeking a gritty, down-to-earth feature then this is not for you. I think to wish realism upon it is to miss the exploration that is taking place. It is a film that narrates unexpected happiness with a nostalgic twinge. Amongst moments of tragedy, it is cathartic, beautiful and exquisitely acted. One not to be missed in the cinema.