This synopsis sounds kinda run-of-the-mill, but that is to underestimate the film completely. For a start, the story isn’t in the chronological order I describe above. Oliver meets Anna towards the start of the film and Hal’s death is towards the end, with everything in between jumbled up. Ewan is fantastic, Mélanie is fantastic (and also gorgeous), and the chemistry between the two is brilliant. From the first time they meet, when Anna can’t speak due to laryngitis, to the end of the film, their relationship is wonderful and captivating. Plummer is a delight as Oliver’s Dad who now wants to explore all facets of being gay. His new boyfriend Andy is played by Goran Visnjic (Luca Kovac from ER), who is very affectionate and always slightly awkward around Oliver. Add to this mix a Jack Russell who has a vocabulary of over 150 words but can’t talk, and you have a rather fabulous film!
I thought Beginners was great. It’s funny, sweet, but because the film is essentially about loss and grief, it is of course sad. This is typified by the CD cover that Oliver is designing (as part of his job) concerned with the history of sadness; though this isn’t done in a lugubrious way, it is still lighthearted and understandable. The relationship between Anna and Oliver is very sweet, most of the time, and Arthur the dog (who misses Hal as much as Oliver does) provides most of the humour. I don’t feel that any of this does the film any justice; Mike Mills’ film is a brilliant character-driven depiction of how grief affects relationships. Sounds heavy eh? No, it’s brilliant and I think my favourite film of 2011 so far.