Film review: Beginners

2011– 105mn – 15

Directed and written by Mike Mills. Starring Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, Christopher Plummer. Review by Walter Nichols.

In this sweet film by American indie director Mike Mills, Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a young designer living in LA rocked by two unexpected announcements from his elderly father Hal (Christopher Plummer): that he is gay, and that he is dying from cancer. The film opens after Oliver’s father has died, and flashes back and forth between Hal’s last few months, and the weeks following his death, a time during which Oliver befriends his father’s Jack Russell (and starts talking to him), and falls in love with a young French actress, Anna (played by Melanie Laurent).

Oliver’s problem is that he convinces himself, even before a relationship has started, that it’s sure to fail; and so he sabotages himself at every turn. Anna’s problem is that she has no home or roots, and even though she believes in giving relationships her best shot, they inevitably fail anyway.

Beginners is a lovely if un-life-changing little film. Most of its value comes from the cast, who put in wonderful, layered, sincere performances all round. All three leads – McGregor, Plummer, and Laurent – also have palpable chemistry between them, and their interactions feel warm and real.

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars