Grant Mitchell

Mike Mills’ 2010 film and true-to-life story, “Beginners,” is based on his father’s own coming out at the age of 75. It is a heartening adventure and exploration through the sometimes arduous journey of self-discovery and self-love. 

Coming-of-age stories are meant to be a sort of lesson for us in all of the mediums they are produced. Sometimes the messages fall on deaf ears or are poorly written, but for “Beginners,” the message left for the audience is pertinent and soul-piercing. 

Expectation is a great and looming thing over all of our lives. 

Expectation to find interests and hobbies, expectations to monetize our skills, expectations to succeed and most daunting of all, expectations to find love, internally and externally, and to be happy. 

For “Beginners,” this is a film that parallels the love lives of a father and son who have struggled to find happiness up until now. 

The father, played by Christopher Plummer, is a 75-year-old man who has just come out as gay after living his entire life up until that point as a closeted gay man in a heterosexual marriage. 

And his son, Oliver, played with a bittersweet hopefulness and romanticism by Ewan McGregor, fully accepts his father’s new identity and is happy he has a life that fulfills him. But for Ewan’s character, he has yet to find a meaningful relationship and is still holding out for the right person. 

The grand stylistic piece of this film is that the above is all told through a series of flashbacks, as Plummer’s character has recently passed away and his son is revisiting all of these memories in a series of flashbacks. 

But the one true thing that is constant is Oliver’s pursuit for his own yearning for love and acceptance. 

This is by no means a somber story, although the synopsis may make it sound as though it is. 

This is a tale of hopefulness and trust. Trust in life, and trust in following one’s heart. I think that’s something we all need assurances in. 

No one is free and clear of pain, heartache or yearning for love and acceptance. We all have, will or are in some way dealing with all of those things. This is a part of our humanity. 

The significance of “Beginners” is that it normalizes the strife we face while in pursuit of the things we want and the things we think we want in terms of love and life. The film holds our hands and tells us our journeys will all have trials and tribulations, but ultimately we will find where we are at home. 

We will find ourselves. 

That is the crux of many Hollywood productions, the lack of honesty in storytelling when depicting a love story or a coming of age. The solutions are always so natural and simple. 

When in fact, clarity is rarely ever given until the events have already unfolded and transpired and we look upon ourselves in a reflective manner. 

Again, “Beginners” shows us that bittersweet nostalgia reflection brings us, as well as how it can hinder us in the present if we remain trapped in the thoughts of yesterday. 

Couple all of that philosophy with the award-winning performance by Christopher Plummer and wonderful portrayal of someone trying to figure things out in Ewan MgGregor’s Oliver, and you have one of the best coming of age films ever. 

Grant Mitchell is a junior majoring in public relations. He can be reached atgmitch16@vols.utk.edu.

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