Beginners (2010)

Mike Mills's semi-autobiographical film Beginners (2010) is about both change and stasis -- change that is imposed by circumstances and the stasis that results from fear and pain and the fear of pain. Mills tells the story of a septuagenarian father who comes out to his 40-something son and soon after receives a diagnosis of inoperable cancer. The father is played by Christopher Plummer and the son is Ewan McGregor, who are wonderful in this keenly perceived and intimate tale. Mills uses an interesting elliptical style as the story of the father, Hal, taking a younger lover and plunging head first into gay activism intertwines with that of the son, Oliver, falling, hesitantly, for a beautiful and intriguing French actress he meets at a party. The father, though terminally ill, is all youthful abandon while the son is the epitome of caution and dismay. It's a wonderful juxtaposition, and, to Mills's credit the film avoids cliche and jeremiads about destiny and fate and seizing the day. And love, while it doesn't quite triumph, does acquit itself nicely. Beginners is a sweet and tender movie.


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