DVD of the Week – Review of Beginners (2011)
by NIR SHALEV
Beginners is a relatively low-budget film that echoes Woody Allen-style romantic comedies. However, this film is mostly dramatic and even though the romance is there, and is a really good romance, it’s not the center of the story.
Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a cartoonist who is told his father has terminal cancer. The next shocking announcement in his life comes direct from his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who claims that he’d been gay since he was 13 years old.
The film doesn’t begin at the beginning nor end at the end of the story, but has instead an appropriately non-linear structure. The film time travels back to the 1960s on several occasions to show Oliver’s relationship with his mother and his childhood, strangely somewhat lacking a father figure. In the present, it still travels in time, moving between Oliver helping his father cope, with the cancer and the rest of his life, and Oliver’s new relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a girl he met at a party.
From what I could deduce, Oliver begins a real relationship with his father just as he’s dying; Hal begins a new relationship with a much younger man (played well by Goran Visnjic) and tries to cope with the denial of an oncoming death; and Anna begins a relationship with Oliver while trying to fix her own father problems. The plot isn’t complicated but the film’s time traveling method of editing makes it more complex and therefore, a more interesting film.
McGregor is very fragile and believable. His performance is the most human, the most hurt, and the most sincere in the film, and also the best that he’s given so far in his career.
Overall it’s a touching and sincere film that feels natural and sounds believable. It can be tough to watch sometimes, but it flows so well from moment to moment that you can’t look away. Given that I hadn’t heard of it until it came out on DVD, it’s also one of the biggest surprises I’ve had this year.
The DVD and Blu-ray contain A Short Film about Making Beginners; Feature Commentary; Beginners Promo; and (Blu-ray exclusive) BD-Live Content.
Other new releases this week: Larry Crowne