MFR Rating: ★ ★
An autobiographical tale of a father coming out of the closet at the age of 75 following the death of his wife should provide an interesting family melodrama. Beginners is certainly mellow, it just lacks any sort of kick and ends up tasting insipid and feeling irreverent.
The film focuses on two stories. One being the story of father, Hal (Christopher Plummer) and son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) during Hal’s four gay years leading up to his death. This story can feel occasionally touching and Plummer certainly shines in his role, but there’s just not nearly enough exploration of the his newly strained relationship with his son. But it’s the parallel story of McGregor’s romance with Melanie Laurent that really doesn’t work at all. The romance feels extremely French, albeit written in American. Lots of posturing, quietness and a deep sense of knowing poignancy, which just comes across completely cold. Everything about the relationship seems incredibly staged and false, devoid of connection and this lets the film down. The interesting story of McGregor and Plummer’s potentially awkward father/son relationship feels brushed aside as more of a b-plot, when that story would have been far more worth the screen time than a self absorbed and painfully stilted romance.
Beginners never manages to find its feet. What could have been a unique plot and family realtionship falls flat on its feet. The acting and direction is all perfectly passable, but the story fails dismally to reach its potential and ends up feeling far longer than its modest running time suggests.
Beginners opens 22 July in the UK and is already open in the US. Running time: 105 mins. Certificate 15.
Review By David Rank