Beginners (2010)

Mélanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in Beginners (2010)

Life Begins Whenever You Want

Six months after his mother died Oliver's (Ewan McGregor - Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang) father Hal (Christopher Plummer - Closing the Ring) tells him that he is in fact gay and had come to an agreement with Oliver's mother to keep it a secret whilst they were married. Having come out Hal embraces gay culture and gets himself a younger boyfriend but four year later dies. Hal's death not only leaves Oliver with his dog Arthur but also an understanding that he can no longer be alone and tries to embark on a relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent) a relationship shy French actress.

That is a surprisingly linear synopsis for a movie which is anything but linear as "Beginners" delivers its narrative across three time zones which skip in and out of each other. One moment we will be in the period between Hal coming out and dying, the next we will be in the period after as Oliver tries to live life with the same gay abandon which his father did in the last few years but then we will jump back to Oliver's childhood. The irony is that this fragmented narrative which flits and flips all over the place is not the problem with "Beginners" as whilst it takes some time to get use to you do and the meaning of the movie as we discover it is never too late presents itself.

Christopher Plummer in Beginners (2010)

The problem with "Beginners" at least for me is writer/ director Mike Mills styling decision which has that feel of wanting to be indie. Now in fairness I have never been a huge fan of indie movies with their off beat styling where you can have something such as a scene where someone says something and then the same scene is repeated several times with them in different clothes, but a controlled indie movie which doesn't try desperately to be different works for me. Unfortunately Mills' indie styling ends up to heavy handed for me and soon becomes like an over used novelty which drags the movie out which is why at 105 minutes it feels much longer.

Despite this the acting is good through out with Ewan McGregor delivering an endearing performance as a young man who is essentially afraid of relationships trying to do what he feels uncomfortable with. Plus Christopher Plummer delivers a fun but sensitive performance as an older man who embraces gay culture leading to some tender but amusing scenes with Goran Visnjic who plays his younger lover.

What this all boils down to is that "Beginners" whilst having good performances and an interesting storyline didn't work for me because of the indie styling was just too forced for my tastes.