Life begins at 40
A BEAUTIFULLY understated piece of film making and a playfully inventive style of storytelling are combined to great effect in Beginners.
In his most complete performance in many years, Ewan Mc gregor stars as Oliver, a solitary graphic artist yet to sketch out where his life could be heading as he nears the age of 40.
Never known for being the most expressive or outgoing of people, Oliver acknowledges he has retreated further into his shell as the movie starts. His father Hal ( Christopher Plummer, inset) recently died after a lengthy battle with cancer, leaving Oliver with a heavy load of psychological baggage.
It wasn’t that Hal belatedly and proudly came out as a homosexual at 75 years of age that threw Oliver so much. It came as more of a shock to realise that someone could keep their real selves suppressed for almost their entire life.
For reasons he is yet to understand, Oliver may well be hiding away from the world too – just as Hal did.
At this point, it should be stated that Beginners is no dreary drama about someone working through their dead-dad issues. The intricate flashbacks depicting the final phase of Hal’s life – as witnessed by a nonplussed Oliver – are wonderfully warm and sincerely upbeat.
So too is the mid-film entrance of Anna ( Melanie Laurent, pictured with Mcgregor), a mysterious French actress who may hold the key to removing Oliver from his selfimposed vacuum.
Some viewers may find Beginners a mite too shy and retiring for their tastes but it is hard not to be impressed by the all-round skills of its writer - director, former music-video wiz Mike Mills.
Every frame exudes both a quiet confidence and a refreshing ( for an American film, at least) respect for an audience’s intelligence.
An important side note for lovers of great cinematography: you will not fail to notice the exemplary camera work of Danish lensman Kasper Tuxen here.
The minute visual grace he adds to scenes of the gradually evolving relationship of Oliver and Anna are just as important as anything the acting or direction brings to the mix. Well worth a look.