Life, love and the meaning of truth: Beginners

The movie poster for Beginners. The film stars Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer.
The movie poster for Beginners. The film stars Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer.

“My father told me he was gay. I remember him wearing a purple sweater when he told me this, but actually he wore a robe.” Beginners, released in 2010, is a charming movie that strays away from the typical Hollywood love story.

The movie begins introducing Oliver talking to his father’s Jack Russell terrier, Arthur. “Look, it’s lonely out here, so you’ll have to learn how to talk to me,” says Oliver. The dog responds in subtitles: “While I understand up to 150 words – I don’t talk.”

Oliver Fields, played by Ewan McGregor, is a 38-year-old graphic designer. Suddenly, his world is disrupted by two things: one – his father coming out after being married to his mother for 44 years, and two – his father has terminal cancer.

As a child, Oliver was deeply affected by his quirky mother and her relationship with his father. The image of his father pecking his mother briskly on the cheek is repeated throughout the film, indicating the distance between them and what effect it had on Oliver as a child. The plot moves along with flashbacks of Oliver’s memory, many of which include the peculiarity of his mother.

My favorite scene was one where he and his mother visit an art museum, where his mother is greatly affected by a sculpture. In order to better understand the sculpture, she moves to mirror the shape of the work of art, and subsequently is asked to leave by security. This unique character lends to the originality of the film and further explains how Oliver’s past has shaped his future.

As he comes to terms with his father’s condition, Oliver is able to find love in a peculiar woman named Anna, played by Mélanie Laurent. Their relationship grows as Oliver battles with finding truth in his past and present; his self-discovery transforms and develops his character throughout the film. He begins as an awkward and somewhat depressed individual, searching for meaning in a negative time in his life. Arthur, along with his father and Anna, help Oliver grow and discover truth.

“And I can really see Anna’s eyes in 2003. Her ears. Her feet. This is what it looks like when she says ‘I love you’ in 2003. This is what it looks like when she cries. When she tells me there’s always a new empty room waiting for her. They used to make her feel free. Now they make her feel the opposite of free,” Oliver narrates. The film’s unique, observant narration was one of my favorite aspects of the movie; it also gave the story body and helped to sculpt Oliver’s character in the viewer’s mind.

Oliver’s transforming journey parallels to many aspects of the average person’s life and learned from. I thought that the unconventional narration and characters created a unique, refreshing and intriguing view on the issues presented in the film, and therefore allowed it to stand out from other movies. If I could give the movie a letter grade, I’d give it an A.

In my mind, good movies are movies that change your perspective on life, or deeply affect the person that you are, and Beginners definitely did just that. It was rated a 7.3 out of 10 by, claimed “a movie that transcends words”. Beginners leaves the viewer with a new perspective on life, death, love and the meaning of truth.


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