Jill picked another Ewan McGregor movie for this week (with a fair amount of encouragement from me), so sue us.
We decided he was infinitely more appealing than Pinhead right now (and honestly, unless we go back to #3 in the series, I’m pretty sure the PH we know and love has been replaced by another actor and I don’t know how I feel about that).
So, Ewan. Here we are again, Sir and might I respectfully say to the room, this is a phase of McGregor I really enjoy. Stripey sweaters, older, slightly more debonair McGregor. Hummina.
Also, no swinging appendage this time which is bittersweet I suppose – like, this is a film that doesn’t need dick to give it worth, yet I kind of like seeing it in all it’s familiarity, you know?
*Spoilers*! As well as added asides from me (in (brackets) AND italics to show the seriousness of the situation).
IMDB Synopsis: A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.
This film is an introspective meander through the recent and historic pasts of an emotionally distant father and son, as well as a glimpse into a future so far unmapped for our boy, Oliver (McG).
(This film is so sad I blubbed throughout, maybe because Christopher Plummer looks so much like my grandfather did. Sadly, our own Grampy never did come out towards the end or experience the joy of real love before he left us (that we know of anyway)).
Oliver is coming to terms with the passing of his absent for the majority of his childhood father, Hal. We flit back and forth on Hal and Oliver’s timelines so we meet Hal after he’s come out at the age of 75, following the passing of his wife Georgia (Mary Page Keller). He has a boyfriend called Andy and doesn’t insist on monogamy. He has a little dog called Arthur and likes parties. He’s also been diagnosed with cancer and things, frankly aren’t looking great.
In the present, Hal has passed on and Oliver has taken ownership of Arthur, who has separation anxiety. One evening Oliver goes to a house party with his friends (and Arthur), and meets the charming Anna. They share an adorable meet cute and the spark ignites.
(Mélanie Laurent makes me want to be so French it hurts. Everything about her seems so effortless and I’m in love with her.)
Oliver is sad though, mourning a father he only really got to know in the latter part of his life, sometimes with a side of TMI. There is real love between them but Oliver has trouble with his own relationships having witnessed the problems in his parents’ marriage (several decades of living a lie can do that to a couple). He’s scared shitless and seems aimless in other areas, though he’s trying to find his groove creatively.
Oliver is an illustrator with a unique style which he’s trying to evolve beyond album covers for obscure brands. He creates a series of drawings called The History of Sadness, to give you an idea of where his head’s at but it’s rejected by the band he’s done it for because he’s too much of a damn maverick and they don’t get it.
(I get it Oliver! HOLD ME!)
Meanwhile, back in the past, Hal is finally truly happy and loving his New Gay Life, spearheading gay political letter writing groups, gay film clubs, the gay pride committee. He’s a big hit in the gay community but he’s also in denial as his illness gets worse, telling his friends he’s turned a corner health wise.
Oliver and Anna are slowly getting to know one another in 2003, though she’s an actress who travels from job to job so there are periods of absence (you don’t really notice them within the film). Honestly, not that much happens in this film, it’s very navel-gazey which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Eventually Oliver’s fear of not feeling the way ‘he should’ when Anna moves in causes a big fight and Anna leaves. Arthur works on his neediness (kind of), Andy confronts Oliver about his ‘homophobia’ after Hal’s death and Oliver makes some political graffiti (not necessarily in that order).
Will Oliver fuck this all up? Will Anna come back? More importantly, will super-cute Arthur the Dog ever get over his grief?
All these questions will be answered by the end of the movie. You’ll also, I predict: cry a lot, hug the next person you see after you’re done and want to call your family immediately.
I think you can get from the above that, although action is thin on the ground, this is an emotional piece of art that will stay with you long after Ewan has shuffled off the screen in his stripey jumper. It’s a thinker and in places it is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
I found myself tearing up an awful lot and I think it’s okay for me to admit here in my safe place that that’s because losing my remaining parent is the stuff of nightmares. It actually makes me panic if I think about it, so I try not to. Beginners takes you to that place and forces you to stare at it head on, to consider the act of forgiveness and letting go, and taking the person before you for exactly who they are, warty/fucking fabulous bits and all.
McGregor is sexy as fuck throughout (good hair and nice eyes) and Melanie is effervescent but the film really belongs to Plummer, whose Hal is a joy to behold in every way. His childlike glee at finally getting to live his best life is making me form a lump in my throat as I type this.
The interspersed illustrations are also dead good.
My Rating: 4/5 – It’s all about the mood this film and it’ll cut you up, like a ferret with a flick knife. I’m telling you.
If this doesn’t get you thinking about your loved ones and your past/present relationships then you’ve a heart of granite. You’ve at least got to agree that Arthur the Jack Russell is one of the sweetest showbiz canines in a long while (that doesn’t get murdered horribly).