Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 304 - Beginners

Beginners (2011) directed by Mike Millis

It is never too late to restart your life. Several months after his wife of 44 years dies, Hal tells his son Oliver that he is gay and he intends to pursue this lifestyle he never had, even at 75 years of age. In a couple years Hal too will pass away leaving Oliver alone in the world wondering if it is too late to restart his own life. Beginners is a wonderful little film about two people at different points in their lives who are still beginners in life and love.

Several months after Hal dies, Oliver is still mourning. We see him in his father's empty house slowly trying to piece his life back together. All he has left is his father's faithful dog Arthur who can speak to Oliver on a subconscious level, or maybe Oliver is so alone that he can only confide in a dog. One day at a party he meets a girl named Anna and they hit if off. They fall in love and begin a serious relationship, something that Oliver is not quite good at. He has a history of pushing people away, afraid of commitment and all the pain it brings. But perhaps this time is different as he reflects back on the last years of his father's life where Hal was able to embrace who he was and learn to live his life to the fullest to the very end. Oliver's present day timeline is interwoven with Hal's as we see the parallels in their stories. A third timeline is introduced as we see the relationship between a young Oliver and his mother, perhaps the last woman he truly loved.

We see Oliver and Anna's relationship slowly bloom into something beautiful. We also watch the relationship between Oliver and his father which is heart-achingly sad yet equally beautiful. These are his last few years but you would never guess from Hal's demeanor. Here is a man who has lived in the closet for all his life and despite terminal cancer, it is like a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders. He loved Oliver's mother but never quite in that way. Now he is able to experience life and love like he has never felt. Oliver watches his father closely and learns that it is never too late to restart your life. But Oliver is luckier than his father; he still has time to set things right.

I absolutely loved Beginners. It is a genuinely warm and heartfelt movie that is romantic, touching, sad, funny and thoughtful. It is also artfully made in a style that is rarely seen anymore. It is a movie more fitting for the French New Wave than Hollywood in 2011. There are various shots that reminded me so much of Jules and Jim, Vivre Sa Vie, and Breathless I wonder if this was some kind of homage. Regardless it is damn fine film making. I also have to say what a huge difference a musical score can make. The thoughtful piano score is just so beautiful. Maybe it was just my mood at the time, but this was one of the most touching films I've seen in a while and certainly one the best I've seen from 2011.

Grade: A

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