Ewan McGregor is totally engaging as the lead in Beginners. I cared about him and wanted to see him figure out his life. There was also some great chemistry between him and Melanie Laurent. She is such an enigma in the movie that I was mentally on pins and needles always afraid she would go away. It created a tension in those moments between the fun rom-com scenes, which I quite enjoyed. Their conversations were sweet while also being deep and heartfelt.
I have to admit my struggle was in the flashbacks. They had some emotional impact, but they weren't structured in a way that worked all that well for me. I struggled with Christopher Plummer's portrayal of the father. He didn't seem to be consistent in his behavior and often did things that felt unfair to his son, which was hard for me to swallow since I liked the son. It didn't help that not all of the flashbacks occur in chronological order so it was a bit disorienting trying to figure out where we were each time.
The pacing of Beginners was a tad slow, and it's a very quiet film as well. Ordinarily this would drive me crazy, but I didn't mind it all that much here. It almost seemed to be a logical fit for Ewan McGregor's character as he is slogging through life trying to figure things out. Beginners kind of defies a lot of genre classification so it might be a challenge to recommend it to others, but it worked for me. There was just something about it that kept me fully invested and even had me walking away with a smile.
Following Oliver, a 38-year-old man who is living with a recently tortured past, as he falls in love one more time, the film begins to explore what has given him such grief over the past few years. Having his mother pass away after being married to his father for over 45 years, to then find out his father had actually been gay the entire time, to having to accept him falling for another man, to then having to take care of him as he passed away four years later, Ewan McGregor delivers a wonderfully sincere performance here. In a film that desperately needs its leading man to deliver the goods, McGregor was perfect casting decision. This film deals with a lot of heartbreak, but that's life, right?
Unlike films like Blue Valentine or the recent Manchester by the Sea (films with hardly any levity), the romantic aspect is truly the only thing giving life to this saddening premise. Beginners is a very heartfelt story about to unlikely people falling in love, while the past is looming over them like a bad disease. It's definitely not a film that warrants many viewings, but it's a nice treat for independent film fans. To me, in order to balance a film perfectly, there has to be an even amount of happy to go along with the sad. This film does that in spades, which is why I enjoyed it so much. That being said, the main issue I have with this film is in its simplicity.
Sure, some people may find the fact that a 75-year-old man falling in love with a 35-year-old man to be risky territory, but if you are willing to explore an aspect like that, why not go for it? Their relationship is not explored enough in my opinion, leaving little to no impact on me for the future setting of this film. Flashing back and forth through time to show how our main character got to be where he is, I found the present day more interesting than the past, due to the fact that the interesting portions of the past feel incomplete and not fleshed out enough. Beginners is a very ambitious film in the way it tells its story, but fails to impress all that much.
In the end, Beginners is a very important story that more people need to see. It went under the radar upon release and I believe quite a few people missed it. Without much awards consideration, it still accumulated quite a few positive reviews. I think this is a very solid film worth checking out. With great writing for each character on-screen, some fine directing, and a premise that takes a few chances (even though not nearly enough), this is s piece of cinema worth checking out. I don't see myself ever coming to love this film in the future, but I would definitely consider a few viewings to revisit these likeable characters. Beginners is a solid watch.
Hard to follow at times, and annoying in tone, 'Beginners' is worth watching for the performances over the quirks. And if goofiness is your thing, then this is a perfect little indy that will sooth your soul. Final Score: 8.3/10
Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent provide warmth, subtle humor, and a good feeling in the roles they were chosen to play. I have to say that the story that ties McGregor's character to the two characters in his life (his French girlfriend, and his gay father) has brief moments of inconsistency, but the feeling and execution are what makes 'Beginners' a deep narrative commentary on the historic events that happened and homosexuality itself. It is also a good movie to sit through while sipping on a hot glass of coffee.