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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this touching, mature indie dramedy -- based loosely on the experiences of writer/director Mike Mills -- revolves around a father coming out of the closet at the age of 75 and proceeding to live life as a gay man to the fullest despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The movie has some frank but not overt sexuality and sexual references; though sex is discussed, nudity is limited to one female breast. Language includes several uses of "f--k." Characters tend to drink fairly often, but not to drunkenness, and the father takes several prescription drugs for his illness (one sequence shows him high on Prednisone).
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What's the story?
In 2003, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) meets a beautiful girl, Anna (Mélanie Laurent), at a costume party; he starts to fall for her, even though he's convinced that the relationship will never work. In flashback, viewers learn the story of Oliver's father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet at age 75, began dating a younger man (Goran Visnjic), and was diagnosed with cancer. Both with his father and with Anna, in the past and in the present, Oliver must come to understand loss and accept love. Meanwhile, Hal's adorable dog, Arthur, comes under Oliver's care and "speaks" to Oliver with the aid of subtitles.
Is it any good?
BEGINNERS somehow manages to be playfully quirky, with hilariously deadpan dialogue and many cute moments. And at the same time, it's absolutely heartfelt, unafraid to delve into the aching emotional territories of love, loss, and broken hearts. Writer/director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) based this movie on his own father's story, although it's clearly highly fictionalized, much to the movie's benefit.
A gimmick like the "talking" dog (he simply looks at another character and subtitles provide his dialogue) could have been annoying, but it actually strikes just the right tone, coming to the movie's rescue just before collapsing into sadness. The chemistry between characters is spot-on, and Mills isn't afraid to go in close. Beginners is a structured movie, but it allows for messiness within the structure; it's open-hearted but hilariously self-effacing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays father-son relationships. How does it compare to other father-son stories you've seen in the media?
The movie deals with sexual orientation without going into a lot of detail or showing a lot of nudity. Does that have any impact on the storytelling?