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It's 2003. Thirty-eight-year-old graphic artist Oliver Fields has just lost his father Hal Fields to cancer, after Oliver's mother Georgia Fields passed away five years earlier. Oliver is naturally a sullen man due to his growing up relationships with his parents (his mother who had a unique view on life) and watching his parents' cordial but somewhat distant relationship with each other, but is more so now because of his personal family losses. Oliver embarks on a relationship with Anna, a French actress, hoping that his re-energized relationship with Hal following Georgia's death, and Hal's new outlook on life during that time, will show Oliver how to act in a loving relationship. After Georgia's death, Hal came out of the closet and began to live with a joie de vivre that did not exist before, which included an open relationship with a much younger man named Andy. Oliver's relationship with Anna has other obstacles, including Anna's own vagabond lifestyle and Oliver needing to take... Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. This is a terrific little art-house character study with comedic elements, fine acting and superb writing. Mike Mills is responsible and he was also the writer and director on another excellent little movie from about 5 years ago called Thumbsucker. When I say little movie, I mean intimate and poignant with a nominal budget.
Three time periods are presented in overlapping form to an effective end. One period shows us Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as a young kid interacting with his mother (Mary Page Keller). Another period shows Oliver's father Hal (Christopher Plummer) confessing to him that he is gay (this is a few months after the mother/wife dies). The third period has Oliver trying to forge a relationship with Anna (Melanie Laurent) whom he met at a costume party.
While that may sound like a simple set-up, I assure you that the complications created by these characters is both realistic and head-spinning. It turns out Hal knew he was gay prior to marrying Oliver's mother, but claims she promised to "fix" him. Once he proclaims his gayness, Hal jumps in with both feet to all causes gay. He thoroughly enjoys himself and even meets a new, younger lover. And just when he admits to joy, inoperable cancer is discovered in Hal's lungs. This begins the second major secret of his life.
The scenes from Oliver's childhood provide crucial evidence on why he is so solemn and afraid of relationships. He suffers just as his mother did. Things begin to shift for him when, dressed as Freud, his party sofa becomes occupied by Anna - a beautiful, alluring French actress who, it turns out, is just as messed up emotionally as is Oliver. They make the perfect threesome ... including Arthur, Hal's Jack Terrier, who speaking through subtitles, lets us know when things are OK or not. Arthur takes a great deal of the heaviness away.
There are many elements of this film that I really like. The houses of both Hal and Oliver are full of as much personality as either of the characters. The look and pace of the film is meticulous and steady given the material. It seems to be naturally lighted from windows and interior sconces. Nothing even comes close to looking like a Hollywood set.
Ewan McGregor plays his part very close to the vest and conveys the pain and uncertainty that Oliver has learned over the years. His defenses are up! Melanie Laurent was my favorite part of Inglourious Basterds (she was the cinema owner on a mission) and here she offers both hopefulness and melancholy. To me, the heart of the film is Christopher Plummer's performance. He portrays an elderly gay man with grace and then takes it to another level in his "sick" scenes. He is a wise man who may or may not understand how selfish he was, but is intent on showing Oliver that it's never to late to be a "beginner" in love.
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