I thought Beginners was going to be funny, light and bright – the interviews and promos emphasized the humor --, but in truth it is a really sad movie. I thought it was going to be primarily about the relationship between the newly out father and his son (Ewan MacGregor and Christopher Plummer) but it actually centers around the relationship between the son with a new woman (French actress Melanie Laurent) who tries to help him deal with the grief over losing his father. ( It was nice to see a film explore the grief over the death of a parent – I can’t think when I have seen an adult child mourning over a parent in a film before) The only humor in the film comes in the form of a Jack Russel Terrier the son inherits after his father’s death. Even though I am not really a dog person, I often enjoy pets in films (see Young Victoria ) Anyway the son carries on witty conversations with the dog and the dog leans in and listens intently – it’s cute. Again, this is the only light moment in the movie.
The movie is based on Mike Mills’ own story which I heard him describe in a Fresh Air interview and it is really quite fascinating. His academic father came out after the death of his mother. He tried to help his father negotiate the modern world and accept his father’s new young boyfriends. However, the story that Mike Mills told in the interview is more interesting than the story he told in the film. I think the way the film is set up which is all in flashbacks and centers more on his new relationship with a damaged woman than to me the more interesting relationship between the father and the son. Ewan MacGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent are great in the main roles, but I think I still didn’t enjoy this movie very much. Maybe it is a case of Beginners not living up to my expectations.