Beginners

Last week we went to see this. It’s about a single guy in his forties (Ewan Mcgregor) who’s seventy year old dad comes out as gay after his wife dies.

The dad, brilliantly played by Christopher Plummer, gets a boyfriend, goes out on the scene and joins all kinds of gay groups. Then, he becomes ill and dies with his son and friends around him.

Three years later, his son now meets a kooky French actress at a party – the sort that has escaped from a Woody allen movie – and falls in love with her. Given that he’s a commitment phobic slacker will they get it together?

All three stories – the coming out, the death and the new relationship – run concurrently. The relationship between Mcgregor and Plummer’s characters is beautifully drawn, probably because it’s based on Mill’s own relationship with his dad. The kooky French actress story line is not nearly as interesting and feels more constructed. I thought maybe it would’ve been stronger if she had met the father, and her story overlapped with his rather than occurring three years later.

Another Year

I saw this today. I enjoyed it very much but I think after all the reviews I was expecting the best Mike Leigh ever. In my view it doesn’t top the classics – Secrets and Lies, Life is Sweet and Naked.

Compared to these films it has a very different subtle flavour. It lacks their dramatic arcs and the big emotional finish, but I don’t think that was really what it was going for, and the characters dictate a different type of story. That Mike Leigh is just as interested in following.

Tom and Geri are a married couple in their sixties, content and happy together. Over four seasons and four Sundays they are visited by various friends and relations all single and unhappy with their lot. They are kind and caring to everyone. On the surface they’re engaged but they’re also very protective of their own little world. Strong emotional boundaries help them keep the problems of others at arms length.

Tom ( Jim Broadbent) is an geologist prone to plain speaking outbursts and Geri ( Ruth Sheen) is a therapist with a platitude for every occasion. It’s her view of life in particular that I think informs the film. There is a strong similarity between how Geri deals with Imelda Staunton – her depressed client at the start of the film and how she deals with her depressed friends. Both  actors give subtle understated performances.

The films other strong focus, is their friend Mary (Lesley Manville, playing the Mike Leigh neurotic, but with a humane touch) She has a crush on the couples son, and is avoiding the attentions of their alcoholic and equally dysfunctional friend Ken(Peter Wright).

The film explores ideas of  maturity and pragmatism vs neurosis and projection, Interdependence vs codependence. Can friends help each others be happy or only themselves?  How ruthless do you have to be to protect your own happiness? Does happiness come from being in a loving couple? Can singles be happy? – not in this story it seems!

Overall it’s is a film with lots of themes none of them shouted on the surface, more like currents underneath, subtle ideas that are intertwined with character rather than pasted on to the story.

Mike 360 Played at Raindance Film festival

Mike 360 Played at Raindance Film festival, The Screening was: Friday 1 October 2010 at 5:15pm. We went along and it was an interesting selection of films, all very self referential, filmy and genre based.

They accidentally played mine twice, which was an unexpected bonus! They obviously liked it a lot, either that or the person in the projection booth didn’t know what they were doing. I have a feeling it was the latter as there was a kid in a wheel chair in the audience who’s film wasn’t played at all, at the end his distraught mum got up to complain.