Review: Beginners

There’s great danger in opting to stray from the conventional linear storytelling method. Not only do you run the risk of lacking a constant pace and confusing your viewers, but simply forcing them to think too much. Oddly enough, that isn’t the case in the least with Beginners. Yes, the piece gets the wheels in your head turning, but it uses its main character as a vehicle so, curiously, it’s the character that winds up doing the thinking for you, making the film a beautifully consuming experience.

Ewan McGregor is Oliver, a 30-something guy who was once funny and made for good company, but now walks around with a grey cloud over his head and a Jack Russell named Arthur by his side as a result of the passing of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer). It isn’t until Oliver’s pals drag him out to a Halloween party that Oliver finds a little light in this world, an actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent). However, with the wonders of budding love come memories from his past, namely ones of his unusual and inhibited mother and the final days of his father during which Hal puts to use his newfound status of being out of the closet.

Beginners is a nonlinear tale that roots itself in the present, focusing on Oliver and Anna’s relationship, but regularly jumps back to the past. We get mere glimpses of a young Oliver by his mother’s side as well as a more in-depth look at the days following his 75-year-old father’s official change in sexual orientation to the discovery of a cancerous mass in his lung up until his eventual death. Writer-director Mike Mills does a beautiful job interweaving every stage of Oliver’s life so as to enrich the character and make every scene in the film quite multidimensional.

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