After some considerable reflection, I’ve finally decided what struck me most about Mike Mill’s indie-flick, The Beginners. It isn’t the abrasive dark humor, although the film seems to pour it over us at nearly every opportune time, nor is it the unpolished, fleeting cinematography. Nor is it Ewan McGregor’s questionable drawing capabilities…
Really, what it came down to for me was the caliber of acting, and more largely, the direction offered to both leading actors from the Berkeley-born director Mike Mill’s. A quick re-cap:
Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a middle-aged LA-based graphic designer, has not only discovered that his father is terminally ill with lung cancer, but that his father is also gay, after enduring a marriage and raising a son for over 60 years. Shortly after his father’s death, Oliver meets Anna (Melanie Laurent) at a costume party. She is a french actress who floats from one hotel room to another, burdened constantly by her father’s suicidal phone-calls.
What’s interesting here is their initial meeting. Without saying a word to each other, they can both sense that the other is dealing with something difficult. Words need not be exchanged. Desperate to escape loneliness, both characters acknowledge the connection, which quickly develops into something more powerful.
The two know virtually nothing about one another and yet they both end up in Anna’s hotel room after the party. But Anna isn’t looking for a one-night stand. And neither is Oliver. It’s merely the shared company of another human soul during times of strife that is needed more than anything, and the two drift peacefully to sleep.
What unfolds is an honest love-story about two people struggling to make a relationship work whilst dealing with their own personal dilemmas. We care because we want so desperately for them to be happy, to move on from that which continues to pull them back down.
Will Oliver be able to truly love another after witnessing the dispassionate marriage between his mother and father? Will Anna rise to the challenge of bringing that much-needed light into Oliver’s dark life?
Is the timing just not in their favor? Or is it?