Monday, December 19, 2011


When 30-something year-old Oliver's (Ewan McGregor) mother passes away, he is told by his 70-something year-old father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), that Hal is gay. The story then tells of the events that happened shortly thereafter as Hal was diagnosed with terminal cancer just as he was falling in love with a much younger man named Andy (Goran Visnjic). Several months later, Oliver is greiving after the death of his father as he also begins to fall in love with a French woman named Anna (Melanie Laurent). The film moves between the two periods up until its final moments.

Even after watching the trailer that was used to advertise this movie, I immediately worried that here might be an overly quirky or sentimental independent film that I've seen one too many of. Instead, after finally sitting down to watch it, I found it to be one of the most unique films of the year. This sophomore effort from writer-director Mike Mills is partially autobiographical (in regards to the relationship between Oliver and Hall) and his passion for this story shows in the immediate blending of the editing with the script and the dialogue. I would really like to go see Mills' first film, Thumbsucker, if he also demonstrates this interesting of a style and pace to his work.

The stories of Oliver and Hall move parallel to one another while still never being predictable. Hal is remodeling his life now that he has announced that he is gay and is truly in love with someone. Oliver realizes that he isn't used to love when he meets Anna and must now also remodel. One quickly realizes how both men are in proverbial closets. The storylines then begin to mix and flow freely as the film goes from past scenes to present scenes almost like some sort of a dream or a dance sequence.

Plummer, at the age of 82, is as endearingly joyous as he has ever been. As masterful as he is in this role, McGregor and Laurent are also good enough to match his experience. McGregor is as engaging as ever and Laurent also displaying the same sense of sincerity for her part. I also enjoyed the most honest of characters in the film, a terrier named Arthur that Oliver inherits from Hal after his passing (seriously, I never thought dogs could "act" this good). It was just nice to see a movie that is hopeful about love and relationships while not feeling unnatural. If anything, as particular of an experience this might be for Mills to draw on, it feels almost universal thanks to its entrancing pace and the absorbing quality of the performances.

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