Beginners Mike Mills

Beginners Mike Mills
"Why are you at a party if you're sad?" scribbles educated, dirty haired, French free spirit Anna (Mélanie Laurent) on a pad of paper for the perpetually depressed and contradictive Oliver (Ewan McGregor) while dressed as Charlie Chaplin at a costume party where Oliver sees patients as Sigmund Freud. And, really, why "are" you at a party if you're sad? If you're resigned to not having a good time and not finding any human connection or magic, why bother? Furthermore, why revel in the euphoria of having something, only to suffer the overriding terror of losing it, or worse, the resentment of attainment?

Beginners is far more than the manifestly twee premise of a meek artist coming to terms with his 73-year-old father's (Christopher Plummer) simultaneous revelation of mortality and homosexuality. It's an odyssey of human incongruity and paradoxical discomfort, of mortal pragmatism and romantic duality escaping the vacuum of bloated, indulgent love stories that perceive connection as complementation and completion rather than an uncontrollable set of pre-ordained and potentially destructive variables.

It's told with a melancholically wry voice ― McGregor's voiceover connecting times past with present and his father's relation politically with gay rights, contextualizing the self as a miniscule factor in the greater scheme of things. Flashbacks and present weave together with still imagery and painfully observant human truths, invested entirely in capturing the gritty inconsistency of the human spirit with unnecessary embellishment.

Amidst a sea of films bent on capturing the beginning and end of things in an idealized or superficial manner, Mike Mills's semi-autobiographical treatise on the nature of our thwarted or deluded notions of optimistic duality captures the anxiety of hope. It says, "I don't believe that it's going to work, therefore it's not going to work," but then questions itself and again reaches out for the possibility of something unexpected, which is perhaps the very nature of being a realist with enough zeal not to stop in your tracks and give up entirely. (Alliance)