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Beginners

Year: 2011
Production Co: Olympus Pictures
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic

This is the film that got all the kudos, but go and watch Perfect Sense for a better Ewan McGregor film. Not that there's anything wrong with this (with apologies to Seinfeld, from which that was a very popular gay joke), but it doesn't have as much presence as I wanted it to.

I was actually more drawn in by hero Oliver's (McGregor) burgeoning love affair with pretty actress Anna (Laurent, who you last saw as the heroine of Inglourious Basterds). She goes against every stereotype from the first time we see her dressed as a man at a fancy dress party, writing on pieces of paper because she has laryngitis, and you really want what they have to succeed.

But that's a mere subplot. The more awards-friendly story is that Oliver's elderly father Hal (Plummer, in his Oscar-winning role – a dead cert for a man both dying and gay, in hindsight) tells his son he's dying of cancer and is finally coming out of the closet, having known all his life that he's been gay.

It's not very clear what the movie's saying, maybe it's just the fact that it can be hard to maintain a relationship when you never really saw one growing up. Oliver's parents were loving to him and amiable to each other, but maybe that's why Oliver can't give himself fully to Anna now.

The second great performance of 2011 for a dog (after The Artist) goes to Hal's needy Jack Russell, which Oliver adopts and who has an inner life we can see with onscreen subtitles. It's a cute aside and just one aspect of humour that lightens what could have been a very leaden film.

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