BEGINNERS :: Oscar Ritual 2012
I wavered on watching this film, wondering whether it would be an “agenda” movie but also knowing it was a story about coming to terms with a parent’s death. Neither of these intrigues me on any normal day, but ultimately it was the strong recommendation by a critic that I love, who is also a Christian, that encouraged me to watch Beginners with an uncritical eye. I can honestly say that I’m so glad I did.
Christopher Plummer was awarded the Oscar last month for his portrayal of a 75-year-old man who determines to live his final years as an out-and-proud gay man after having been married to a woman for over 40 years. Ewan McGregor portrays the son who had no knowledge of his father’s homosexuality and is faced with getting to know his father as a different man while also walking with him through a terminal illness. Both actors are exquisite in their performances, with Plummer greatly deserving of his award. He is endearing and cantankerous and sweetly charming (as always), and the rapport between himself and McGregor is at once delightful and heartbreaking. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a moving, affectionate performance by a pair of actors. McGregor, in particular, brought me to tears many times throughout the film as his character repeatedly faced the reality of his father’s death. He also charmed me more in this film than he ever has in any other film before – and he’s charmed me quite a lot over the years! Beginners really is McGregor’s movie.
As the grieving son, McGregor is just beginning to find his way back into his own life when he meets a woman who enchants him in the most subtle and surprising way. The bulk of the film chronicles their fledgling relationship and examines whether two people consumed by intense sadness can possibly build a lasting love. Those answers do not come easily, but it is mesmerizing to watch the couple meander their way through. This film is so beautiful in its ability to provide sudden moments of true joy right in the middle of overwhelming grief. The fact that this is exactly like “real life” is what makes Beginners so captivating.
It’s not a perfect film, and there were segments that seemed unnecessarily crude and gratuitous (none of which related to Plummer’s character arc), but for the most part Beginners is delightful. One line stuck with me above all others as I watched the film, and it’s something that just might haunt me for years to come. At the most intimate moment of his new relationship, McGregor’s character says, “You can stay in the same place and still find ways to leave people.” The truth of that pierces my heart. What made me love Beginners is that it told a true-to-life story just as it actually occurs – no flash, no gimmicks, no heavy-handedness. Just honesty and truth of emotion. You don’t have to share beliefs and opinions in order to relate to stories such as this.
movie still via IMDB