Review - Beginnners

My second NZFF film delighted as much as the first, yet it could not be more different as a film than Florian's Love Story. I attended this movie on the strength of a National Radio review of upcoming film festival movies.  The story sounded interesting enough with the concept of a young man's father coming out of the closet after his mother died.  Add to that Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent, and it was a movie I needed to see.

What makes this movie rate so well for me, is that the movie is not just a straight examination of a man dealing with his father's newly declared sexuality, while falling in love with a mysterious French woman.  This movie explores much much more.   How gay people were forced to hide their sexuality, the journey of a son and father through a terminal illness when the father is in denial, the coming out of an elderly gentleman, the effects that an upbringing and a parents relationship has on a child's ability to form relationships as an adult, the beauty of falling in love, and even to an extent, man's relationship with pets and how we can find ourselves modifying our lives to accomodate them.

All my assumptions of the movie were shaken in the first 5 minutes of the film, when I realised we were beginning after his father's death and would spend the movie looking back and forth at his journey since that passing and how the sum of his experiences and recent grief, were impacting on his ability to form relationships. Combine this with the equally relationship shy Anna, a French actress currently in L.A. and you have the recipe for some wonderful film making.

The script is strong, with the right mix of subtlety, humour and charm.  Christopher Plummer, a veteran of the screen, who most people most strongly associate with his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, gives a great performance as the recently come out and in denial of the seriousness of his illness, Hal.  In truth, I am not sure if he was actually denying the illness or keeping the impact of it from those who he loved and did not want to worry.  Either way, the performance is touching and a great mark of the skill and technique an actor of this calibre and experience can bring to a role.

Ewan McGregor puts in a solid portrayal as the son Oliver. Again showing his greatest talents come to the fore when he is working on low budget films with a strong script.  The delightful Melanie Laurent creates a lovely mystery and intrigue in the early beginnings of their relationship, which transforms into a tenderness and calmness later in the movie.

I have seen comments that this is a potential Oscar nominee, and I think this might be true.  The strength and beauty of the lives and people in this movie are touching. Director Mike Mills has triumphed again.