One of the best aspects of the film is Fields’ relationship with his father’s dog. Fields takes in the dog after his father’s death and the dog serves as the link to their relationship. The dog also “talks” to Fields via subtitles that represent the dog’s thoughts. It’s a nice surreal touch. What’s missing from Beginners is exploration. The issue of his father’s homosexuality is that it’s not really an issue. It’s hard to believe a thirty-eight year old man wouldn’t have difficulty finding out his father was not who he thought he was. His acceptance of his father’s new lifestyle and boyfriends was too easy to be interesting. It’s not that he should have been against it, but anyone would be taken aback by such a revelation.
What is most disappointing about Beginners is that they could have gotten so much more from the actors. Christopher Plummer is a great actor. Melanie Laurent gave a fine performance in Inglourious Basterds, but she is nearly wasted in this movie. Ewan McGregor is a fine actor. However, despite an expansive filmography, he has unfortunately never been able to find a role as dynamic as his breakout performance in 1996’s Trainspotting. All of these actors could have brought much more gravitas if they had really been able to dig into the issues presented in the film. Instead Beginners is pretty boring and morose. As much as I wanted to like it, I didn’t find this film to be enjoyable at all.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer. The detail is very good. Everything has a kind of stark reality. The color palette of the film leans toward the dull rather than the vibrant, but that is by design. Skin tones look natural, and the contract is realistic. The sound is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This film is about minimalism and the soundtrack is no exception. The rear speakers are used primarily for ambient noise. Many conversations are held in hushed or quiet tones, and they are easy to understand. The score sounds bright and does not overpower the rest of the soundtrack. The special features include an audio commentary with writer/director Mike Mills and a short film about the movie. The short film is an interesting piece about Mills and his decision to make this movie, which is semi-autobiographical.