Beginners (2010) - Review
In honour of the late Christopher Plummer
by Ryan Raitt
I was introduced to Christopher Plummer, like many I would imagine, through The Sound of Music (1965). His tough yet sensitive performance perfectly compliments Julie Andrews’ bubbly Maria, making that film one of the most endearing family films of all time. As the years went on, and I continued to enjoy cinema, Plummer remained a constant brilliance wherever he showed up. From brief supporting roles, like Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006) and David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), to more involved character performances, such as his infamous role as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World (2017), Plummer always commanded the screen with his sheer acting talent.
His most sensitive and, arguably, most accomplished performance would be that of Hal in Mike Mills’ award-winning Beginners (2010).
In a charming yet poignant tale of love, death and learning that it’s never too late to start your life, we follow Oliver (Ewan McGregor) in the early 2000s shortly after his father Hal (Plummer) passes away. He looks back to a few years before, when Hal revealed two announcements which shook how Oliver viewed life: that at the age of 75, Hal came out as a gay man to live a fully energised life and that Hal had cancer. What follows is a quiet, witty, and loving look on human connections.
Mills’ semi-autobiographical film takes its time and often feels meditative in its themes. Oliver attempts to find solace in French actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent), beginning a relationship full of conversations which allows him to look back on the past few years with his father and the lessons about life that he was taught. McGregor and Laurent are a cute and wholesome couple, but the true beauty of the film comes from Plummer, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Hal always has a smile on his face. Even when faced with terrible news, he wants nothing more than to live his life to its fullest.His giddiness when introduced to house music and his true loving smiles when in the company of his boyfriend, Plummer is nothing but sublime.
He elevates the film from a quirky indie drama, to a fully moving and sincere masterwork, one that is severely underrated.
A consummate professional of the stage and screen, Plummer’s entire career was full of outstanding performances. The excellence he shows in Beginners was his constant output in everything he appeared in. Cinema lost ones of the greats, but his legacy will prove to remain as one of the very best. May he rest in peace.