Beginners (2011) stars Ewan McGregor as a graphic artist whose life is rocked when his newly widowed father comes out of the closet at age 75, just as he announces that he has terminal cancer
Christopher Plummer plays the father, Hal, a man who spent his life guarding himself physically and emotionally. Mere months after the death of his wife, he embraces the identity he had hidden all his life and live out his final days loving himself and living out his true nature. It allows Hal to open himself up to his son Oliver (McGregor) in ways he had shrouded in the past.
All of Oliver’s remembrances of childhood revolve around his mother (Mary Page Keller), a woman who embraced impulse and eccentricity to break out of her frustrated marriage. She was his uninhibited role model—Dad is absent from his memories but for the back of a head always leaving with a perfunctory show of guarded affection—and yet Oliver seems to have inherited his father’s guarded nature.
It’s a quasi-autobiographical project for filmmaker Mike Mills. Inspired by his own experience with his father, he gives the film a celebratory passion in the quiet closeness of father and son and the playful first-person storytelling, where gentle eccentricities and anxious memories and fears of commitment and loss swirl together.
Mélanie Laurent costars as the woman who challenges Oliver to follow his father’s lead and follow his heart.
Plummer won the Academy Award, BAFA, Film Independent Spirit Award, and many other accolades for his performance.
Mike Mills paid tribute to his mother with his next film, 20th Century Women (2016).
On DVD and Blu-ray with commentary by writer/director Mike Mills, the featurette “A Short Film About Making Beginners” and a promo.