Beginners | Mourning Becomes McGregor: Ewan shines as a son grieving his gay dad

Beginners - Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star as father and son in writer/director Mike Mills

By turns playful and funny, tender and poignant, the comedy-drama Beginners is a surprisingly uplifting film about mourning.

Inspired by writer-director Mike Mills’s own life, the story revolves around the relationship between Ewan McGregor’s commitment-shy graphic designer Oliver and his retired museum director father, Hal, wonderfully played by Christopher Plummer.

Starting in 2003, the film finds Oliver coming to terms with his father’s death from cancer while embarking on the first hesitant steps of a love affair with kooky French actress Anna (the radiant Mélanie Laurent).

Beginners - Mélanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor

Moving and funny

Interwoven with this narrative are a series of flashbacks to the period a few years earlier when Hal came out as gay at the age of 75, enthusiastically embraced gay culture and took up with a much younger lover. As Oliver mourns his father, he’s inspired by his example to embrace life more fully himself.

Beginners won’t appeal to everyone. Some viewers will find Mills’s quirkiest touches way too whimsical – the Jack Russell terrier Oliver inherits from his father communicates his thoughts via subtitles; and when Oliver first meets Anna at a fancy-dress party, he’s dressed as Sigmund Freud, while she has laryngitis and can’t speak. You either find this cute or unbearably winsome. Yet for those on the same wavelength, Mill’s cleverly constructed film is moving and funny, and has interesting things to say about love and grief and self-fulfilment.

Released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 14th November by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

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