Saturday, December 24, 2011

BEGINNERS - FILM REVIEW (2010 - Directed by Mike Mills)


"People in the building like us. Half of them think things will never work out. The other half believe in magic. It's like a war between them."
- Anna
______________________________________________________________________________________________

We all have a number of preconceived notions. Some of them, well, we’re emotionally attached to them. Even the most rational and logical among us have presuppositions that we’ve always assumed to be true. We have beliefs, and we often consider our beliefs as part of who we are as persons. My beliefs are part of what make me who I am. They shape my hopes and dreams. They influence my choices. They motivate my actions. They powerfully affect how I feel. They even determine how I treat other people.

Sometimes, if you believe something, it will cause you to treat another person badly.

Not many of us are into questioning everything. But some of us are. One likes to say how one has no good reason for being emotionally attached to anything that you’ve been taught - how one is willing to change one’s mind and give up beliefs you’ve always just blindly accepted as long as someone else can convince you logically how they are false. But that doesn’t mean that your beliefs still don’t shape who you are as a person ... and how you act.

You can always reason things out in your head. If you are a good reasoner, you can even work out a few difficult problems that way. But thinking things through in your head is nothing compared to real life experience with other people. Other living and breathing human beings out there are affected by the way you act. Some of them are more vulnerable than others. Some of them are strong. Some of them are weak. Some of them are more loveable than others. Some of them are repelling. All of them have value and exist for a good reason. In other words, what you believe - just inside your own head - affects your attitude and actions. These, in turn, affect other people. So therefore, the beliefs you have in your head affect other people.

Some of your beliefs can hurt other people.

Some of your beliefs can help them.

Beginners is a film about a man whose preconceived notions about his own life are shell-shocked. Ewan McGregor plays this man and his name is Oliver. Honestly, I don’t think McGregor has been given this kind of role before. He’s mostly been in action movies and thrillers where the demand for acting ability has never been that demanding. But we’ve got to hand it to him, he impressively does more acting in this film just standing in one spot than I think he’s done in his other more popular films put together. The effort he puts into showing us how much his character is wrestling with his own conflicting thoughts pays off.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"What? You’re not allowed to interact with the art?"
- Oliver’s mother
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Oliver's life is shell-shocked because he is confronted with two surprises in quick succession. First, after his mother dies, his father, Hal (played with charm by Christopher Plummer), tells him that he's gay. Second, after he discovers his father is gay, he is next told that his father is dying from cancer.

This short plot summary (of really only the first five minutes of the film) is enough to keep a large number of people away from it. They are already calling it an example of gay rights propaganda. Never mind that the story is based on the director's own life experience with his own father. Never mind that the film seriously explores questions far deeper than mere political alignment on the issues. And never mind that Beginners is, in fact, an all around well-constructed and powerful film.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"My parents got married in 1955. He was a museum director. She fixed up old houses. They had a child, and they stayed married for 44 years ... until she died in their bed, after four months of cancer and eating French toast for every meal and watching the Teletubbies everyday and confusing white straws for her cigarettes and skipping back and forth through time inside her head ... Six months later, my father told me he was gay. He had just turned 75."
- Oliver
______________________________________________________________________________________________

The controversy can distract from the main point.

Gay rights, as a political issue, is supposed to be one of the main dividing battle lines in what is absurdly called the "culture war" in our country. Republican Presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, has already declared that gay marriage is the most important political issue facing our nation today. The fact that a majority of younger Americans support gay rights was actually supposed to be a big story this year. And the more politicized our "culture" is supposed to be, the more gay rights as a political issue is a cause for offense, anger, accusations, severed family relationships, dropped friendships, bigotry, prejudice and pain.

Thus, the film Beginners will cause offense for many conservatives who will choose to avoid or disparage it simply because of the subject matter. I doubt any of us are that interested in reading very much bias so I'll attempt to deal with this quickly and then move on. Unfortunately, you couldn't ask for a more stereotypical example of nonthinking prejudice than looking for what is called a "Christian" review of this film. In spite of the fact that there is currently talk of Beginners getting "best picture" nominations this year, most Christian movie review sites have simply ignored it altogether. While Beginners was first released in the United States in April to June of 2010, so far it appears that the major Christian conservative film reviewers have essentially pretended it doesn't exist, including Focus on the Family's PluggedIn, Christianity Today, Christian Spotlight on Entertainment, ChristianCinema.com, CatholicMovieReviews.org, and The Christian Broadcasting Network.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"I’m Andy, Hal’s boyfriend ... You know I have the right to be here as much as anyone else."
- Andy
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Crosswalk.com seems to be one of the only ones who managed to mention it with a brief lukewarm summary. On the other hand, a popular and widely-read reviewer, Ted Baehr of MovieGuide, can be relied upon to supply just the exact stereotypical response that will be widely considered representative of the Christian point of view. He writes fusses -

"BEGINNERS is truly a horrible movie with a very strong Anti-Christian, politically correct worldview. Were it merely a depressing film about a father dying of cancer or a man who, scarred from childhood, is unable to handle long-term relationships, BEGINNERS perhaps would have been bearable. Were it even a film discussing marriage, art, love, or social issues, it might have been at least viewable. However, the movie only sporadically uses dark humor to offset its jumble of mid-life crisis, death, cancer, loss of identity, loss of love, and utterly Anti-Christian beliefs. In fact, this is a joy-sucking project that, while originally meant to be thought-evoking and inspiring by its Writer/Director Mike Mills (the film is based off his life), merely serves to drown out feelings of certainty, happiness or morality ... BEGINNERS is filled with abhorrent, immoral values and a politically correct, anti-Christian agenda. Thus, the movie’s few funny and touching emotional moments are vastly overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of depression. Media-wise viewers wanting more uplifting content can skip BEGINNERS."

Now, to be fair, we can't be completely sure that Baehr actually managed to see the whole thing. He could have, after all, just sort of watched it, along with exuberant use of the fast-forward button.

Also, unlike other instances of conservative hypocrisy when it comes to issues of homosexuality, Baehr does manage to also point out his dislike of the implied non-marital sex (between Oliver and the girl, Anna) in the film along with his dislike of the gay relationship. With something of both a rhetorical flair and an utter misunderstanding of the entire story, his viewpoint is so perfectly biased that it is almost funny. He writes remonstrates -

"They eventually have sexual relations (during which she weirdly bites his arm) and thus the relationship begins. Filled with books of pornography entitled 'The Joy of Sex' and misquoted verses from The Velveteen Rabbit, their relationship is a unique one – living out of her hotel room and seeking fulfillment from each other. Anna even tells Oliver at one point, 'You’ve lost so much. How can I make up for that?' To which he simply replies with an expletive."

I personally find it amazing that the subject matter, politically controversial as it's supposed to be in our society, should so blind people like Baehr to what this film really has to offer. He is incapable of taking anything positive from the film because the nature of the relationships in it disgusts him. And this is illustrative of our problem. Why should the private lives of other people matter to you? The answer is simple. Because you've been taught that you should care about what other people do in their own private lives. You believe that it matters.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Your personality was created by this guy John Russell, a hunting enthusiast in the 1800s. And he bred your ancestors to have stamina and courage for the hunt. You think you’re just you, and you want to chase the foxes, but other people planted that in you years ago."
- Oliver, talking to his dog, Arthur
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Just so all my cards are on the table, for the reader's information I am a Christian. I'm also a political conservative. I was raised in a Christian conservative background full of like-minded family, friends and churches. After eventually questioning most of what I'd been taught, I discarded what didn't make any sense (a lot of it) and came back from all the questioning still a dyed-in-the-wool Christian conservative. I've also come to believe that most churches in America treat gay people badly (and that's putting it mildly). Furthermore, having also spent about one third of my life in the U.S. military, I've also seen how gay men are mocked, despised, threatened, and worst of all, excluded - left friendless and alone. If you are gay, and if you live in America, you are living in constant danger of being discriminated against, hurt, abused, persecuted, scoffed at and, once again, excluded from normal parts of everyday life that everyone else takes for granted.

This is wrong, unfair and unjust.

This should have absolutely nothing to do with being politically liberal or conservative. And, even more fundamentally, if you hold to Christianity being true, then you should not be part of those who are personally offended by the sexual orientation of other people. Nor should the fact that you believe them to be sinners affect how you treat them in any way.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"My mother didn’t know she was Jewish until she was 13. It was 1938 ... Her father tried to hide that they were Jewish. This is the swim team that asked her to leave once they discovered that she was Jewish ... My father realized he was gay when he was 13. It was 1938 ... My father laid down on a couch like this and told the psychiatrist all his problems in 1955. The doctor told him that homosexuality was a mental illness, but it could be cured ... Not everyone got cured."
- Oliver
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Beginners is not a work of propaganda any more than films like Gentlemen's Agreement, To Kill a Mockingbird, Giant, or The Crimson Kimono were. Like them, it's a film that deals with systematic discrimination as a integral part of the story both intelligently and provocatively. As the story progresses, Oliver has to reconcile how his father lived for over four decades hiding and repressing what he felt and who he was. Throughout his childhood, Oliver sensed that something was wrong between his mother and father. Thus, you get dialogue like the following -

Hal: Did you know, about me?
Oliver: No, I just thought you and mom weren’t in love.
Hal: We loved each other.
Oliver: But you were gay that whole time.
Hal: I learned how not to be.
Oliver: For 44 years?
Hal: I knew I was gay, though, at dinner parties I was looking at the husbands not the wives. I couldn’t have survived if I didn’t know that. I just chose not to follow those instincts.
Oliver: What about sex? You guys had sex?
Hal: She didn’t think I was the greatest lover, but we made do. Look, I liked my life, the museum, our house, that’s what I wanted.
Oliver: And mom? You wanted mom too right?
Hal: Yes, stop that ... She proposed to me you know. I said - look, I love you and we’re great buddies but you know what I am. And then she says, that doesn’t matter. I’ll fix that. I thought ‘Oh God ... I’ll try anything.’
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"I don’t know, Anna. I don’t think this is what I am supposed to feel like."
- Oliver
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Most conservatives who believe that homosexuality is morally wrong believe that you should just suppress the feelings of attraction that you have, and that that can fix everything. This is what Oliver discovers that his father did, out of sacrificial love for him and his mother, for 44 years of marriage. And yet, his mother was not able to change the way his father felt. She wasn't able to fix it. That's how their marriage was a tragedy. And it was the tragedy of their marriage that created Oliver's very existence in the first place. He is devastated by the fact that his parents relationship was decades of two unhappy people who were trying to force themselves to feel what they didn't feel. The consequence of this is Oliver now has an idea that there is a certain way that you ought to feel in a good relationship. And yet, in every romantic relationship that he has tried, he still hasn't felt what he thinks he ought to.

I don't know if everyone who sees Beginners will get this idea - but this film is intentionally exploring the idea of morality applied to your feelings. The idea is that we have desires that are right and desires that are wrong. We have feelings that are good and feelings that are evil. Doesn't this seem a bit strange? And yet, because of his upbringing, this is what Oliver now believes - he believes that there is a way that he ought to feel in a relationship.

Here's my question. Moral responsibility, by definition, implies choice. Otherwise, how can one be morally culpable for that which one has not chosen? But since when do you choose who you are physically attracted to? Even though there are those explain that being gay is only a choice, telling someone that they can choose who they are attracted to is not going to allow suddenly allow them to shape their feelings by mere acts of will. Oliver is attracted to women, not by choice, it's simply who he is. Oliver's father, Hal, tells him that he just chose not to follow the way that he felt. This is to be distinguished from actually being able to choose how you feel. And this is what we are taught people who are attracted to the same sex ought to do.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Hal: Well, let’s say, when you were little, you always dreamed of some day getting a lion. And you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait and the lion doesn’t come. Then along comes a giraffe. You can be alone or you can be with the giraffe.
Oliver: I’d wait for the lion.
Hal: That’s why I worry about you.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Oliver doesn't want to settle like he believes his parents did. He is dysfunctional about his own relationships because he is holding them up to a higher standard. He doesn't control how he feels, but whatever it is that he believes he ought to feel is destroying every relationship he tries to commit to.

His problem mirrors the problem of his mother and father. They chose to act against the way that Hal felt, and suffered for it because Hal couldn't will himself to feel differently. Oliver is choosing to attempt to follow the way that he feels, and he is suffering for it because he can't find a girl who makes him feel what he has decided is right to feel.

In our modern culture, we are regularly told how we ought to feel, as if we could determine this through our own acts of will. But it gets worse than that. There is a theological point of view that turns these questions upside down. There are Christian teachers and churches who will even teach that moral responsibility does not imply choice. You can be morally culpable for what you have not chosen because you were condemned to your sinful state by predetermined powers. In other words, you can never choose to act contrary to your own desires, even if your desires are evil.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"My personality was created by someone else and all I got was this stupid T-shirt."
- Oliver's graphic design theme
______________________________________________________________________________________________

The questions of the origin of our desires, whether we choose our own desires, whether we are even able to will ourselves to either change our desires or to act against them ... all these questions have fascinated philosophers and theologians for centuries. Calvinist theologian, Jonathan Edwards (famous for his 1700s hell-fire sermon, Sinners in The Hands of an Angry God) wrote a treatise disagreeing with Christian philosopher John Locke on the ability of man to will contrary to his own desires. In the treatise entitled 'A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will which is supposed to be essential to Moral Agency,' Edwards writes -

"So in every act of refusal, the mind chooses the absence of the thing refused; the positive and the negative are set before the mind for its choice, and it chooses the negative; and the mind's making its choice in that case is properly the act of the Will: the Will's determining between the two, is a voluntary determination; but that is the same thing as making a choice. So that by whatever names we call the act of the Will, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining, or being averse, being pleased or displeased with; all may be reduced to this of choosing. For the soul to act voluntarily, is evermore to act electively. Mr. Locke (1) says, " The Will signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose." And, in the foregoing page, he says, "The word preferring seems best to express the act of volition;" but adds, that "it does it not precisely; for, though a man would prefer flying to walking, yet who can say he ever wills it?" But the instance he mentions, does not prove that there is any thing else in willing, but merely preferring: for it should be considered what is the immediate object of the will, with respect to a man's walking, or any other external action; which is not being removed from one place to another; on the earth or through the air; these are remoter objects of preference; but such or such an immediate exertion of himself ...

"Mr. Locke (2) says, "The Will is perfectly distinguished from desire; which in the very same action may have quite contrary tendency from that which our wills sets us upon. A man, says he, whom I cannot deny, may oblige me to use persuasions to another, which, at the same time I am speaking, I may wish not prevail on him. In this case, it is plain the Will and Desire run counter." I do not suppose, that Will and Desire are words of precisely the same signification: Will seems to be a word of more general signification, extending to things present and absent. Desire respects something absent. I may prefer my present situation and posture, suppose sitting still, or having my eyes open, and so may will it. But yet I cannot think they are so entirely distinct, that they can ever be properly said to run counter. A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his will. The forementioned instance, which Mr. Locke produces, is no proof that ever does. He may, on some consideration or other will to utter speeches which have a tendency to persuade another and still may desire that they may not persuade him; but yet his Will and Desire do not run counter all: the thing which he wills, the very same he desires; and he does not will a thing, and desire the contrary, in any particular. In this instance, it is not carefully observed, what is the thing willed, and what is the thing desired: if it were, it would be found, that Will and Desire do not clash in the least ...

"Some may possibly object against what has been supposed of the absurdity and inconsistence of a self-determining power in the will, and the impossibility of its being otherwise than that the will should be determined in every case by some motive, and by a motive which (as it stands in the view of the understanding) is of superior strength to any appearing on the other side; that if these things are true, it will follow, that not only the will of created minds, but the will of God himself, is necessary in all its determinations ..."
(emphasis added)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Andy: You know that I tried to have sex with women?
Oliver: Yeah?
Andy: Yeah. I wanted you to know I tried, it just, it didn’t work.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Enlightenment English philosopher John Locke takes the contrary view. He argued, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, that we do not choose our own desires, but that we are able to choose to act against our own desires -

"... it is evident that desiring and willing are two distinct acts of the mind; and consequently, that the will, which is but the power of volition, is much more distinct from desire ... There being in us a great many uneasiness, always soliciting and ready to determine the will, it is natural, as I have said, that the greatest and most pressing should determine the will to the next action; and so it does for the most part, but not always. For, the mind having in most cases, as is evident in experience, a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires; and so all, one after another; is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty man has ...

"We have a power to suspend the prosecution of this or that desire; as every one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (as I think improperly) called free-will. For, during this suspension of any desire, before the will be determined to action, and the action (which follows that determination) done, we have opportunity to examine, view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and when, upon due examination, we have judged, we have done our duty, all that we can, or ought to do, in pursuit of our happiness; and it is not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and act according to the last result of a fair examination ... it is the end and use of our liberty; and the further we are removed from such a determination, the nearer we are to misery and slavery ...


"Nay, were we determined by anything but the last result of our own minds, judging of the good or evil of any action, we were not free ... And therefore, every man is put under a necessity, by his constitution as an intelligent being, to be determined in willing by his own thought and judgment what is best for him to do: else he would be under the determination of some other than himself, which is want of liberty ... That, in this state of ignorance, we short-sighted creatures might not mistake true felicity, we are endowed with a power to suspend any particular desire, and keep it from determining the will, and engaging us in action.

"This, as seems to me, is the great privilege of finite intellectual beings; and I desire it may be well considered, whether the great inlet and exercise of all the liberty men have, are capable of, or can be useful to them, and that whereon depends the turn of their actions, does not lie in this, - That they can suspend their desires, and stop them from determining their wills to any action, till they have duly and fairly examined the good and evil of it, as far forth as the weight of the thing requires. This we are able to do ... God, who knows our frailty, pities our weakness, and requires of us no more than we are able to do, and sees what was and what was not in our power, will judge as a kind and merciful Father."

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Oliver: I was brought up by these animals and they didn’t like questions. They were very frowned upon. So I had to guess.
Anna: You can ask me anything.
Oliver: Anything?
______________________________________________________________________________________________

You can decide for yourself whether Edwards or Locke is closer to real Christianity. But I've added a couple pages worth of philosophy to my review of Beginners because Mills effectively explores these same questions with his film. Hal is a kind and loving man and father to Oliver. Hal is physically attracted to other men and has been all his life. There are thousands of people just like Hal in our world. Hal's choices were meant to suppress the desires that he was taught by society were wrong. He chose what he did out of love. And, when you think about it, 44 years is quite a tremendous sacrifice.

And yet, Oliver can't help but think that there is something completely wrong with what happened to his father and mother. He's convinced that his father having to hide and repress what he felt was wrong. He's hurt by the fact that his mother was trapped in a marriage that was fundamentally wrong. He can't shake the idea that there is a way things ought to be - and that things aren't as they ought to be.

This is where I became convinced that the director, Mike Mills, is a fantastic story teller. Hal's struggle with cancer isn't just a cliche to make the situation more emotionally compelling. His diagnosis is contrasted with the fact that he's gay. Once told that he is going to die, Hal's first response is not to tell anyone, and then to tell everyone that he's getting better. Then, his second response is to convince himself that he is really going to get better. It's another way of thinking about what has happened to him. He's applying the same attempt for a solution to his death sentence that he tried to apply to his being gay. It doesn't work, and even though it results in pain, it doesn't stop Oliver from loving his father.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

“My father printed a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit in large type on the wall ... ‘The stuffed rabbit asked - What is real? And the Horse said, ‘Real isn’t how you’re made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long long time not just to play with, but really loves then you become real ... And the rabbit asked, ‘Does it hurt? And the horse said, ‘Sometimes.’ ‘Does it happen all at once like being wound up, or bit by bit?’ ... ‘It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily ... Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints. But these things don’t matter at all because you are real and you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”
- Oliver
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Another theme explored by Beginners is the possibility of redemption. In spite of all his fears and preconceived notions about how relationships just don't work as they were meant to, Oliver is offered the chance at forming a redemptive relationship when he meets a girl named Anna. Anna, played by French actress Melanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds, has problems of her own (including the inability to commit to one man and an ultra-dependent and suicidal father). But she believes some things that Oliver doesn't believe. One of the things Anna believes is that two people can make a relationship work even when it's not perfect and even when both people do not always feel like they ought to. She admits that she's not always happy. She admits that she doesn't always know how to be the person she knows she should be. But that is not a reason not to try.

Oliver's interactions with Anna have the potential to change him and what he believes. This is the potential of any romantic relationship. It can make you into a better, kinder and more understanding person - or it can make you into a disillusioned, bitter and apathetic person.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Hal: You always have some very good reason, haven’t you?
Oliver: No, Pop, I just don’t want to be like you and mom.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Beginners shows us the world through Oliver's eyes, and his sadness makes the story into quite a gentle film. Regardless of whether you believe homosexuality is right or wrong, there are truths we can all still agree on. The human condition is fallen. We are all sinners. No person is better than any other person. Even if another person does something you believe is wrong, that does not lessen their inherent worth as a human being. That's elementary, isn't it? It should be, but sometimes you have to wonder. Oliver learns that when his father tells him that he's gay, while it shocked him it certainly doesn't make him love his father any less. Is there any reason for him to treat his father, or his father's new friends differently? No. There is not.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

The history of sadness ... Earth begins (Sadness not yet invented) ... First couple to marry for wrong reasons ... Invention of alcohol, Ancient Egypt ... First gay man accused of being mentally ill ...
- Oliver's graphic design theme
______________________________________________________________________________________________

The hints of grace that Mills is able to bring out in this story involves a profound exploration in what ought and ought not to be, both in our society as a whole and in our own personal relationships.

Part of living in the real world means accepting that we are not always going to feel like we ought to feel. It also means that even our most important and intimate relationships are not going to be perfect. We are not always going to know what to do. And this is ok. Accepting truths about our own infallibility is part of what it means to accept and love another human being, in spite of anything they might do to shock you or cause you pain. Oliver determines to keep high standards. He does not believe in, as his father puts it, settling for the giraffe instead of the lion. But, while the film suggests that a relationship with Anna could be Oliver's lion, he is also faced with the possibility that the lion is not going to make him completely whole, nor will it be perfect.

You can accept that what is right and good here on earth is not always going to be perfect and always feel just right without settling for what clearly is not right. Your feelings may change from day to day, but you can still choose what you want - and to act like you ought in spite of how you feel. There is something unjust and wrong with what society forced Hal into doing, but Hal still somehow rose above that which was oppressing him.

The possibilities for those who are lost finding redemption are numerous at the end of Beginners.

Redemption can result from choosing to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of those who you love. As Oliver thinks through what happened with this father, he realizes that his father did this for both him and his mother. Again regardless of his moral beliefs, Oliver is given understandable reasons to treat his father's younger boyfriend coldly or angrily. Instead, in spite of everything that happens, he chooses to treat him with kindness.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Since I came out to my father, he never speaks to me."
- Andy
______________________________________________________________________________________________

When considering the disadvantages between settling for what is clearly wrong and trying to wait for what feels completely perfect, there is something redemptive about being offered a third alternative. Maybe, realistically, there is something that, though not perfect, is still happily worth waiting for and finding. Maybe, charitably, there is an approach to an issue like gay rights without the condemnation of choices that were never made or the pretentious diagnosis of illnesses that were never real.

Whatever preconceived notions you may currently have, Beginners is a film that will challenge them, make you think, and offer you a chance to see a point of view that may not be your own through a more gentle and less polarizing lens. There is no reason to be offended by it any more than there is any reason to avoid it. Instead, it's a new opportunity to ponder how you ought to think and ought to act towards others - precisely the same opportunity that Oliver is given throughout the entire film. The lessons here are lessons that are capable of enrichment.

Contrary to the stereotypical Christian responses to this film, I have read two thoughtfully balanced reviews of Beginners coming from within a Christian worldview. They are from Jeffrey Overstreet at Image and from Lauren Wilford at filmwell.

2 comments:

  1. I'm two months late to this review, but I wanted to note anyway that you've successfully pushed me from "I want to see that when it hits Netflix" to checking the price on Amazon. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. To be honest, I didn't finish the review - I didn't want any of the movie spoiled! This looks great, I love Ewan McGregor. Where was this filmed? Video production in New Hampshire is big these days, a few films coming out have been filmed there. RIPD, to name one, though I heard it was a bust in theaters. Tangent! Anyway, thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete