|Bulgarian subtitles Beginners||5 years ago|
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A Beautiful Film
10/10 I was able to see the world premiere of Beginners at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend, and it completely took me by surprise. It was a bit of a last minute pick, and it has been my favourite film so far, and probably one of my favourite films in general. To be simple, I will just say that this film is about life and the emotions and experiences that we all go through within it. Christopher Plummer plays a 75 year old man who after the death of his wife is finally able to explore his homosexuality, and we see him come to life through this experience. It is not only about him, but mainly about his son played by Ewan McGregor, whose relationships with both his mother and father shape him as a person. These relationships and his own romantic relationships make up the core of his character, and it is through love, loss and discovery that the three main characters display an authentic view of humanity. It is an original film, and requires a certain audience, but I recommend that everyone should see this true gem.5 years ago
The History of Sadness
8/10 Greetings again from the darkness. This is a terrific little art-house character study with comedic elements, fine acting and superb writing. Mike Mills is responsible and he was also the writer and director on another excellent little movie from about 5 years ago called Thumbsucker. When I say little movie, I mean intimate and poignant with a nominal budget.5 years ago
Three time periods are presented in overlapping form to an effective end. One period shows us Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as a young kid interacting with his mother (Mary Page Keller). Another period shows Oliver's father Hal (Christopher Plummer) confessing to him that he is gay (this is a few months after the mother/wife dies). The third period has Oliver trying to forge a relationship with Anna (Melanie Laurent) whom he met at a costume party.
While that may sound like a simple set-up, I assure you that the complications created by these characters is both realistic and head-spinning. It turns out Hal knew he was gay prior to marrying Oliver's mother, but claims she promised to "fix" him. Once he proclaims his gayness, Hal jumps in with both feet to all causes gay. He thoroughly enjoys himself and even meets a new, younger lover. And just when he admits to joy, inoperable cancer is discovered in Hal's lungs. This begins the second major secret of his life.
The scenes from Oliver's childhood provide crucial evidence on why he is so solemn and afraid of relationships. He suffers just as his mother did. Things begin to shift for him when, dressed as Freud, his party sofa becomes occupied by Anna - a beautiful, alluring French actress who, it turns out, is just as messed up emotionally as is Oliver. They make the perfect threesome ... including Arthur, Hal's Jack Terrier, who speaking through subtitles, lets us know when things are OK or not. Arthur takes a great deal of the heaviness away.
There are many elements of this film that I really like. The houses of both Hal and Oliver are full of as much personality as either of the characters. The look and pace of the film is meticulous and steady given the material. It seems to be naturally lighted from windows and interior sconces. Nothing even comes close to looking like a Hollywood set.
Ewan McGregor plays his part very close to the vest and conveys the pain and uncertainty that Oliver has learned over the years. His defenses are up! Melanie Laurent was my favorite part of Inglourious Basterds (she was the cinema owner on a mission) and here she offers both hopefulness and melancholy. To me, the heart of the film is Christopher Plummer's performance. He portrays an elderly gay man with grace and then takes it to another level in his "sick" scenes. He is a wise man who may or may not understand how selfish he was, but is intent on showing Oliver that it's never to late to be a "beginner" in love.
10/10 Beginners is a great film that will not satisfy a few viewers, as evidenced by other comments here. First, here's what it will not do: it will not feed you a linear story with a single, simple plot. The beauty of this film is in its complexity, which faithfully reflects the dynamics of real life. There are flashbacks. There is highly cinematic use of material that is intended to suggest mood, rather than deliver it with dead dialog. Yes, the dog gets a few subtitles, highly credible for anyone who has ever owned a dog. There is even a brief moment in which solid colors flash on the screen, and we occasionally visit the protagonist's revealing sketches. There is a message in all of this that some will not appreciate. Several stories are magically woven together: the son's difficulty in maintaining a relationship, the girlfriend's own hesitation to commit to one place and one person, the mother's endurance of a marriage that worked on only one level, the father's adjustment to his new gay life, and his boyfriend's worries that he is not accepted because he is gay. Whew! That's a lot to cram into one story, but it works remarkably well and we see in the end that all the characters were what the title said, Beginners.5 years ago
A deeply original and profound piece.
10/10 Mike Mills' 2005 debut Thumbsucker is a film whose quirky charm was completely lost on me, but where that film was drenched in artificiality, he somehow turned that charm into something grounded and serene with his sophomore feature Beginners. This is a movie that honestly transcends words, for me. The kind of impact it had on me will never be able to be described, but it's one that touched me at my soul and deeply moved me in a profound way. The film is built around this message from Mills' personal life that you have the capacity to assess your situation at any point in life and make a change for the better. However, in the most un-Hollywood sense, Mills never beats you over the head with the message or panders to it's audience; it just exists in it's own world and you can embrace it or not, but the film doesn't exist solely for that reason. It may not particularly exist for any reason, it just exists and for me, that was all it needed to do to hit me right in the heart.5 years ago
In taking on a subject matter as emotionally strong as this (a father coming out of the closet at a late age and then being diagnosed with terminal cancer), Mills was open to a plethora of moments for overbearing melodrama to bring the audience to tears, but he never embraces this in a traditional way at all. He treats the subject with this delicate, grounded approach that feels fully original and honestly quite daring in it's subtlety, leading to an experience much more effective than if he had gone the traditional route. His background in graphic design leads to some wonderfully charming editing techniques and Woody Allen circa Annie Hall uniqueness in the story structure, but it never overpowers the center that is ultimately a charming, emotional and entirely natural character study. The study of a young man finally seeing who his father is, contrasted with his first experience in true love. All three of the central characters charmed me off my feet, but Mills creates genuine, flawed and sometimes annoying human beings out of all of them.
Once again, as with everything else in the film, he transcends the general approach and just creates these full, real human beings. Oliver and Anna instantly became one of my favorite couples in the history of cinema, with the incomparable chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent, and Hal reminded me so much of my grandfather it really brought me to tears several times. Mills plays everything in an understated way, but by doing this he allows the film to really get under your skin and sink in, a much more effective technique than just hitting you on the surface over and over again. The performances by all three are truly out of this world.
I find McGregor to be a great talent who rarely gets the opportunity to demonstrate that, but this character allows him to give his finest performance to date. He is so grounded and honest in his portrayal, bringing comedy both light and dark along with genuine emotion that sunk into me deeply over and over again. I related to his faults and his gifts and McGregor really made me feel like I understood this guy through and through. Laurent is a delight and makes you fall in love with her almost instantly; again I have to mention the overwhelming chemistry that the two of these had. Before we even got a chance to fully comprehend their relationship, I was in tears by the simple act of them holding hands with one another. Mills and Laurent take a character that could have been conventional and tossed aside for the father-son dynamic and make a fully-fleshed person out of her, complete with her own demons and turmoil and I fell in love with her all the way.
Then comes Christopher Plummer as Oliver's father, who is everything you could want from this guy; charming, chaotic, filled with life and regret. He's absolutely enchanting and devastating simultaneously, a guy that makes you want to live your life to fullest potential. In fact, enchanting is a word that is perfect for the film as a whole. Beyond the authenticity and the emotional impact that it had on me (which is not small by any notion), the film truly seems to dance at times and it's in those moments that I felt something...beautiful and serene beyond anything that words could hope to encapsulate. This movie transcended everything for me.
A Powerfully Understated Piece Of Filmmaking
7/10 For a film with such a haunting and depressing scenario, 'Beginners' is a surprisingly powerful and perceptive piece of cinema. When I first read the synopsis, I was a bit doubtful about the concept and was uncertain as to whether it was worth a watch, however after learning that the film was partially autobiographical and based on the life of writer-director Mike Mills, I decided to give it a try, convinced by the inspiration of Mills' first-person experiences. 'Beginners' blends comedy and romance against a dramatic backdrop in order to create a charming and character-driven story. In my opinion, it is Christopher Plummer's Oscar-winning performance that really sells the picture accompanied by some assuring performances from Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent. 'Beginners' is a powerfully understated piece of independent filmmaking that maintains it's emotional resonance from start to finish.5 years ago