Jul 29 2011 By Rebecca Morris
BEGINNERS is a portrayal of a son bonding with his newly out and proud gay father.
Yet if the title of the film leaves you expecting joyful depictions of their romps into previously unexplored territories you might be disappointed.
This is not to say that the relationship between the larger than life dad Hal (played beautifully by Christopher Plummer) and son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) isn't touching and occasionally hilarious, but it is a story haunted by painful memories of loss and regret.
The other big relationship in the film is between Oliver and Anna (Mlanie Laurent). This is a tender exploration of the beginnings of a love affair that at times veers into a nauseating indie fantasy.
Depressingly, as their relationship develops, the enduring message appears to be that Oliver and Anna's quest for happiness is always overshadowed by the failures and regrets of their parents. You might be able to tell that there is a theme of Freudianism running throughout the film.
Unfortunately the idea of parents 'overshadowing' their offspring means that McGregor's character appears as mostly wan and dull, particularly in comparison to the fleeting portraits of his charismatic father and feisty mother.
It is these characters that manage to keep this sad tale afloat, as well as one other that I have thus far failed to mention, and he really is the star of the show.
I speak about none other than Cosmo the dog - whose insightful and sage words are comically depicted in subtitles on the screen.
Another of this film's saving graces is its quirky and rather existential humour, which is laugh out loud funny.
It is a shame therefore that as the story becomes more melancholic towards the end, the humour dwindles with it.
Beginners is generally moving and poignant, but don't expect to leave the cinema with any fuzzy warm feelings.