Beginners is a 2010 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Mills. It tells the story of Oliver, a man reflecting on the life and death of his father, Hal, while trying to forge a new romantic relationship with a woman, Anna, dealing with father issues of her own. The film is based on the true-life coming out of Mills' father at the age of 75, five years before his death.
Beginners premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, where the Los Angeles Times heralded it as a "heady, heartfelt film" with a cast who have "a strong sense of responsibility to their real-world counterparts". Christopher Plummer received numerous accolades, including the 2011 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance.
The film is structured as a series of interconnected flashbacks. Following the death of his father Hal from cancer, Oliver reflects on their relationship during the five years since the death of Oliver's mother, Georgia. Shortly after her death, Hal came out to his son and began exploring life as an openly gay man. He becomes active in the gay community, finds love with a much younger man and becomes more honest with himself and with his son. As a result, Oliver and Hal become closer during this time. Shortly after Hal's death, Oliver meets Anna, a French actress, at a party. Inspired by his father's attitude towards the end of his life and their relationship, Oliver decides to pursue a romance with her.Ewan McGregor as Oliver Fields
Christopher Plummer as Hal Fields, Oliver's father
Mélanie Laurent as Anna Wallace, a French actress with whom Oliver begins a love affair
Goran Višnjić as Andy, Hal's much-younger lover
Mary Page Keller as Georgia Fields, Oliver's mother
Kai Lennox as Elliot, Oliver's friend and co-worker
China Shavers as Shauna, Oliver's friend and co-worker
Cosmo as Arthur
With cinematography by Kasper Tuxen, Beginners was filmed using the Red One digital camera. Much of the film is autobiographical, and is based on director Mike Mills' experiences after his own father came out of the closet following his mother's death.
The "Siedem Razy Kobieta" poster on the wall in Oliver's dining room is from the Polish language version of the 1967 Shirley MacLaine film Woman Times Seven.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 150 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Wearing its twee heart on its sleeve, Beginners explores the depths of modern, multi-generational romance with wit and depth." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film holds an average score of 81 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Calvin Wilson from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, "A lovably quirky comedy-drama with a rhythm all its own." Diego Costa from Slant Magazine wrote, "One of the most distinct pleasures of Beginners is the way it puts together fragments of someone’s life — presumably the filmmaker’s, although little does it matter — with humility, and without vying for some complete whole." Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly wrote, "The movie darts, dreams, and sometimes seems to dance. The great Plummer, meanwhile, creates an inspiring, fully rounded man in late bloom, and McGregor responds with a performance to match."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, saying, "It's a hopeful fable with deep optimism and a cheerful style that kids itself." Peter Debruge from Variety said the film is "deeply poignant and disarmingly personal".
Beginners won the Gotham Award for Best Feature, shared with The Tree of Life, in 2011. For his performance, Christopher Plummer won the British Academy Film Award, Denver Film Critics Society Award, Golden Globe Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, National Board of Review Award, Online Film Critics Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award, all for Best Supporting Actor.
In addition, Plummer was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor and the film was also nominated for Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, and won for Best Supporting Male (Plummer). At the 84th Academy Awards, Plummer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.