4. Beginners (2010)
movies seen in 2013
“We are the same” scene.
Beginners Theme Suite :: Roger Neill, Dave Palmer and Brian Reitzell
Unconventional love stories with flawed and very real characters are my favorite love stories. I am also quite fond of honest takes on love, friendship and family (family in a broad spectrum sense, be it genetic families or families of choice). Even if, at times, a story hits on personal pain or recognizable flaws that are hard to watch, I still find myself drawn to these stories. Beginners has all of that, and though I felt myself tearing up throughout nearly the entire film, as well as having bouts of uncomfortableness at situations, like the one shown in the clip, of my own faults, I still absolutely loved this film.
One of the key themes in this movie, for me, was not wasting your life doing what society deems “the right thing“, or by trying to please everyone else but yourself. It is about not living within the confines of the perpetual “what if“, but going out and being yourself, loving life and others, and expressing what you want, and need. The film also touches deeply on the complications of love and relationships, and how terribly difficult it can be to love someone else in an everyday, long-lasting way.
We first meet Oliver soon after the passing of his father, as he is cleaning up the aftermath of his father’s life, taking in his father’s dog and trying to sort out his life now that he is not a caregiver and friend to his ailing father any longer. Oliver appears very lonely and internal, lost and very affected by the perspectives of love he has grown-up witnessing. Oliver starts a relationship with an equally lonely girl, Anna, who is living a very temporary life, an actress spending most of her days in hotels. Anna is perceptive and enigmatic, and Oliver is immediately drawn into her life. Their relationship is a bit of whirlwind, though believable as such, as they create a temporary family unit, the dog seeming to become their “child“, as they “play house” in Anna’s hotel – the entire thing very much a “holiday” escape of a relationship. They fall in love, and even though the love is real, the setting is not.
As Oliver and Anna’s story unfolds we get backwards glances of Oliver’s parents, and how their choices have impacted his life. We see Oliver’s father, Hal, as he comes out as a gay man very late in life after Oliver’s mother passes. Hal is living is authentic life at the end of his life, and as beautiful as this is, it is also terribly sad as it is revealed how many years he spent living a lie in a marriage that was never real. We see glimpses of Oliver’s mother, with a young Oliver, and see a woman who is creative, animated, and also very lonely – the product of someone living the other half of a lie, without passion and real intimacy. Both stories are terribly heartbreaking to me, but what is more painful, for me, is how all of these choices and decisions to hide impacted Oliver.
One of my favorite moments, though it was one of the hardest for me to take in, was when Oliver and Anna move in together and how they cannot seem to make it work, and how Oliver ends the relationship and nearly immediately after Anna leaves, he breaks down. The reality of being together in a way that was not full of escape, but now immediate and mundane, was portrayed so honestly – it is hard to have started with someone who was once your escape from reality, and then try to make them part of your reality, this can be almost impossible. This was as real to me as certain scenes from my favorite film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, are. We so rarely see portrayals that speak to how hard it is to be together with someone else, even if you love them and are in love with them, especially if you have grown-up amidst bad choices and dysfunctional relationships. I felt so much for Oliver in those moments as I have felt so much like him in my own life. I know what it feels like to let people go because you just cannot sort out how to be with them.
In the end there are solutions and next chapters and hope, and I loved that so much, as well, as I always try to believe in possibility and hope. There was promise that at any point in our lives we can decide to be happy, as Hal did, and that hopefully it is not something we finally embrace at the end of our life, as Hal also did, but now. It leaves you with a little bit of hope that magic exists, if we allow it to.