Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Release date: July 22nd, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 104 minutes

Writer and director: Mike Mills
Composer: Roger Neill, Dave Palmer, Brian Reitzell

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Mary Page Keller, Cosmo

Change is something that terrifies a lot of us. You see, us humans, we’re a bunch of habitual creatures, so once we get used to life the way it is, even with all its banal routines, it’s difficult to welcome anything new, no matter how good it can be for us.

Beginners, written and directed by Mike Mills, is the semi-autobiographical story of how 38 year old graphic designer and commitment-phobe Oliver (Ewan McGregor) deals with the changes in his life. It’s told in flashbacks as he embarks on a relationship with fellow commitment-phobe, Anna (Mélanie Laurent).


Some five years previously, soon after losing his mother, Georgia (Mary Page Keller), Oliver’s father comes out. Hal (Christopher Plummer) embraces the changes this brings in his life; he starts to dress differently, goes out clubbing, listens to house music, becomes involved in gay rights, puts out a personal ad and gets a young boyfriend, Andy (Goran Visnjic). He begins his life again, no longer afraid of the prejudice, shame and punishments from the law that being gay in the 1950’s was associated with. He’s also been diagnosed with terminal cancer. With time running out his zest for life continues to grow.


It’s a funny and very touching story of the external struggles of an older man juxtaposed with the internal struggles of a younger man who has all of the opportunities and none of the restraints his father had. Still, even then, Oliver can’t seem to get past that thing which makes all his relationships fail, but if there’s one thing his last few years with his father taught him, it’s that it’s never too late to change.

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor are absolutely wonderful in their roles as Hal and Oliver and their scenes together are pure magic. The relationship between them is one that is affectionate, respectful and close. It’s a bond rarely seen between father and son as they dance together, buy books and watch movies with his gay friends. As Hal’s health deteriorates, there’s a very moving scene where Oliver hold’s his hand to comfort him. While the romance and drama between Oliver and Anna unfolds just as beautifully, it was really this father and son relationship that captured my attention and emotions.


Another wonderful performance in the movie is from the talented and spirited Jack Russell, Cosmo. He plays Arthur, who belonged to Hal but has now adopted Oliver as his master. There are some wonderful moments when Oliver shows him around his new home and eventually asks him to speak, and a caption beneath Arthur reads “While I understand up to 150 words, I don’t talk”. Unable to be left on his own, Arthur attaches himself to Oliver wherever he goes and becomes a third member of his relationship with Anna.

Written by Mills only a few months after his own father’s passing, and while he was mourning, Beginners captures something crucial for all of us, a message that is twofold; it’s never too late and there’s never enough time. It’s a story that’s life affirming, and though at times the narrative flow meanders, the performances steer it in the right direction.

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