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Monday, October 3, 2011

"Beginners", love, loss and discovery


In this special effects and animation films era, it is so refreshing to see a movie where actors and screenplay are the most important, and where characters are so well constructed and developed. Where there's time to see their evolution and their emotions on screen. And where these emotions connect with you. "Beginners" is that kind of movie.

This is a film about love, loss and discovery. We have two love stories, one between a father and son, Hal and Oliver, the other one between a couple, Oliver and Anna. We have a countdown to Hal's death. And the discovery of two identities: Hal's, hidden during decades, but finally free to express, and Oliver's, that learns how to break his own barriers and let himself be loved, thanks to his father's life lesson as he approaches to his end.
The stories are interdependent and thanks to a back and forth time structure that feels completely natural, they complement each other. It's more than that, they need to collide to let Oliver live his life, understanding his past and his family, and understanding himself, overcoming the grief and his fear. Yes, you might be thinking you have all the ingredients for a sappy drama, but you are wrong. As I  said before, that is thanks to the actors and screenplay, both stunning. First things first.

Three actors in a state of grace, Ewan McGregor as Oliver, Mélanie Laurent as Anna, and Christopher Plummer as Hal, arguably giving the best performances of their respective careers, are responsible of inoculating flesh, blood and emotions to their roles. Melancholia, confusion and sadness are present, but just in a very human, very credible way. I admire how much director Mike Mills cared for his characters (seems there's quite a lot of his personal autobiography), a fact that it is translated into the film vividly. There's real charm and an unforced chemistry between them, something that arrives to the audience, making "Beginners" a pleasure to watch.

On the other hand, we have a creative screenplay, successful in bringing originality to a plot that could have been very predictable, as well as graceful fluidity, with many memorable, lasting scenes. Hard for me to remember a more charming scene than the party where Ana and Oliver met, or such a great dog (look at me, praising a movie with a dog, who would have guessed?). This movie is a puzzle with many pieces that are enjoyable on their own.   

I wouldn't point out many flaws, maybe the few weight of Oliver's mother when it seemed the contrary earlier in the film, and a lack of information on the Ana-Oliver love story towards the end, where to me Mills's skips one needed scene, and a little, not really important, indie/cool cliché in what regards to Oliver's job, a path that is not really explored afterwards and feels a bit pointless. But this are minor complaints. "Beginners" is a wonderfully haunting film, original, charming and affecting.

Don't miss it.

SCORE: 8/10

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