A graphic designer named Oliver meets Anna, a French actress, in 2003 and they begin a relationship as Oliver is struggling to deal with the death of his father, Hal. His father had come out as gay five years earlier, just his mother died and then Hal fell in love while he was fighting cancer. Beginners sees Oliver questioning everything and everyone around him as he tries to rebuild his life and begin again after loss.

Beginners explores how people respond and relate to each other within different relationships. Director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) delivers a semi-autobiographical portrait of life and its varieties of relationships; husband and wife, parent and son, man and woman, even man and dog. The film questions relationships. What can or can’t you ask for and expect from someone else? What are you supposed to or allowed to think and feel in situations?

Though heavily layered and intense at times, the movie is always honest and allows itself room to breathe. It’s a quietly charming and genuine film, which is emotionally-driven, relatable and down to earth. We might not have all had a Septuagenarian father come out while battling a rigorous disease, but we’ve felt the pain of losing a parent or accepting a parent’s new partner or messing up yet another relationship. Everyone can identify at some level.

In interviews to publicise the film, Mills said “sometimes not saying something works so much better than trying to artfully explain something. A little mystery can be great” and this is certainly true of Beginners.

What these characters say is often not as important as how they say it, if it’s even spoken at all. Mélanie Laurent conquers this perfectly as the intelligent and grounded actress who chooses her words carefully.

The film enjoys the perfect pairing of Ewen McGregor with Christopher Plummer, while Laurent is endearing yet aloof as Anna. An interesting and insightful drama comedy brought to life by a talented and unique director.

Patrick Hanlon