Beginners (3 1/2 stars out of 5)
Directed and Written by: Mike Mills (Thumbsucker)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, and and Christopher Plummer
Love is seen as an important to emotional stability. The definition of of love is so broad. Love can mean love of family, friends, God, or that eternal love of another human which people marry or form a longer lasting relationship. Beginners is the story about a father and son Oliver (McGregor) and Hal (Plummer) starting their journey finding that last kind of love.
The film starts with Oliver rifling through his father's belongings, finding and finding things in his father's place like his first personal ad in the gay world. At the beginning of the film the director establishes one timeline where Hal has already passed away. Oliver then takes Hal's dog to his home, a dog which speaks in subtitles to Oliver (but he only knows 150 words).
The film jumps to the next timeline where Oliver's mother has passed away. Oliver uses photos of the past to describe the way things looked explaining what his parents marriage looked like, the president, pets, happy people. He uses happy families to compare to his own because he always assumed they were not happy. Hal comes out to Oliver after this sequence. Oliver imagines that he told him in a purple sweater, but Hal actually told him in his bathrobe. The director/writer uses these quirks while editing together different images of Hal in a purple sweater and bathrobe.
Soon after his father's death Oliver is taken to a party where he dresses like Freud. At the party he meets a beautiful young woman, dressed in a male costume (I don't know who she was supposed to be), and her name is Anna (Laurent). Anna talks to Oliver with a notepad because she has laryngitis. Anna asks on her notepad, why are you a party if you are sad. Oliver is amazed she can tell. Anna draws eyes on the notepad and tells him that is how she figured out his secret. McGregor and Laurent have amazing chemistry, and they provide solid performances in this film
In Hal's story we get to experience this older man working to be something in the gay community; he meets friends, join activist groups, has movie and book nights, and takes a lover in Andy (Visnjic). Hal has started his journey at the end of his life; he has found happiness in moving forward and finally being himself. Hal is living his life and exploring for a the first time, a life where he is free to love whomever he wants. Hal wants his son to be able to do the same. Plummer is the standout in this film; he plays Hal with such charisma and heart. I loved watching him call and wake up Oliver as he came home from the club asking about House music. Plummer plays this role with sincerity.
In a third timeline Oliver is younger (about 10) and we see him only with his mother, and even while at his own father's gallery opening we never see Hal. Oliver did not understand his parents relationship, and viewed as a loveless couple. Oliver promised he would never become them, and has prevented himself from that until watching his father explore his own love life, and meeting Anna.
Director/Writer Mike Mills uses his semi autobiographical experience to tell this story. Mike Mills experienced this exact story; his mother died from cancer then his father came out, and died fours years later. Mills has done a good job exploring the world of coming out for love with both stories. Both Hal and Oliver are facing their past and moving forward to begin their journey. Mills script is a bit too quirky at times, but it's also incredibly emotional and heartfelt giving it enough to surpass that quirkiness. The message is love, and working towards finding a love that makes you genuinely happy.