Beginners is a sweet, smart movie about love, longing, understanding and learning simply to be.
From Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), the film is based on the writer-director's memories of when his father declared he was gay shortly after his mother had died.
Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a thirtysomething Los Angeles graphic artist who has never married, having seen a passionless marriage between his parents.
Beginners mostly shifts among stories. One involves Oliver and his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who announces, at 75, that he is gay and proceeds to do all the things he had never dared before — make new friends, find a young lover, go to clubs and express himself artistically and in his dress.
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The second story, which begins shortly after Hal's death, is about Oliver's budding romance with Anna (Mélanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds), an actress who has never settled down.
A third part is Oliver's memories of his mother, Georgia (Mary Page Keller), and seeing her eccentricities and inner battles in light of his father's revelations.
Oliver's own path to love has always been clouded by his parents' seemingly civil but loveless marriage. So when he meets Anna, who like his mother is a Jewish woman with insecurities, he finds himself torn between a past he has lived with for most of his life and the recent lessons of his late father's coming out.
With a style that can be lyrical or pop-art fun, Beginners is never static or maudlin. Mills' film, despite dealing with death, has the quality of a pleasant daydream, one that you come out of feeling better about life.
Plummer gives a sparkling performance that should net him an Oscar nomination. McGregor is immensely likable, and Laurent is charming.
Beginners retails for $29.98 or $34.98 Blu-ray.