Beginners, a film by writer/director Mike Mills, tells the real life story of his father, a man that was married to the same woman for over forty years and shortly after her death, came out at the age of 75. He was only out for five short years (shortly after coming out he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer) but instantly grabbed ahold of his unclaimed years and voraciously became the man he always wanted to be.
Beginners stars Ewan McGregor as Oliver, Christopher Plummer as Hal, Cosmo the dog as Arthur, Mélanie Laurent as Anna, Goran Visnjic as Andy and Mary Page Keller as Georgia . This film is a singular portrait of an ensemble, which I know sounds counter intuitive, but each carefully created personality follows its own path in this film. Each character learns what it means to be comfortable in their own skin and a story that is essential about the experience of one man becomes something universal, it becomes a story we can all tell.
Mills creates a kaleidoscope of images, words, drawings, and feelings to tell a deeply personal story of the life of his father without bringing his own sentimentality to the table. Hal, a fictional realization of Mills father, truly understands that life culminates in finding out who we are and embracing every aspect of its unexpected twists and turns. The narrative intertwines multiple spaces in time, both before and after the death of Hal. Olivier and his father's dog, Arthur, are the only two characters that inhabit both spaces, allowing the audience a narrative guide through the film. Olivier seems lost in his world, living in an blank space, free from interaction and mistakes. Next to the vibrant image of Hal and the shy yet hungry for experience Anna, Olivier feels outside the narrative space. He seems to move through the film like an observer until he is forced to bloom. The experiences Olivier shares with his father in the last few years of his life inspire something fierce in Olivier's bland existence. His father's relentless search for happiness and love is the launching pad for Oliver's encounter with Anna.
Anna and Olivier's love story is the perfect mirror to Hal and Andy, whose love transcends traditional boundaries and limitations. Hal and Andy embody an imperfect yet forgiving and tender love that blooms despite life's harsh realities, cancer and imminent death. They fall in love precisely because their love is a love worth taking a leap for. Having been the insider in Hal's life, Olivier utilizes his father's courage to venture down an unknown and formerly hard path to love. Anna is both a believer in magic and the intangible and yet, like Olivier, is tied firmly to the sad reality of empty hotel rooms and lost families. She and Olivier find a way to embrace their new relationship and learn to weather their own storms.
Although, Beginners doesn't offer a recipe for living, it does encourage the audience to embrace the unknown, to wake up everyday and remember why we are living. This film asks that you FEEL, and feel it, anything and everything, with a childish enthusiasm. We are all Beginners, at life, at love, at death, at living. This film's simple request is that we find comfort in that.
There is also an amazing array of videos, clips, and the trailer for the film on the Focus Features website. Mike Mills also has a blog link on that same site. http://www.focusfeatures.com/focusfeatures/film/beginners/