VOD Spotlight: Mike Mills on “Beginners”

Sex, life, feeling, nature, magic is how the trailer for Beginners describes the film, based on writer/director Mike Mills’ (Thumbsucker) own relationship with his widowed father. “Beginners started when my father came out of the closet. He was 75 years old and had been married to my mother for 45 years. His hunger to completely change his life was confusing, painful, very funny, and deeply inspiring,” Mills writes.

Watching his father dive into the gay social scene “more emotionally alive than I had ever seen him” was a revelation for Mills. Then his father was diagnosed with cancer, something Mills notes did not slow him down but made him even more hungry to connect with the life he abandoned as a young man. “He told me that when they got married, my mom took off her Jewish badge and he took off his gay badge,” Mills says. “When he said that, it was like a big light going off in my head,” and a feeling that time is precious. Five months after his father’s death, he began the script for Beginners.

Mills adds, “For me, a lot of grief is like running in the dark in a forest, sprinting forward, trying to get to something. I hope that’s what we captured in the movie, this mad grab for life.”

Christopher Plummer, who plays Hal, notes that the story “appealed to my imagination. I don’t think any of us have known a lot of people who do that. To suddenly break out with all that honesty is quite extraordinary, at that age. … It was a joy, because he was having such joy himself.” Plummer won a Hollywood Film Award for the role.

This need to live to the fullest sends Hal’s son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) into a serious relationship — one he is committed to making work — at a time when his father falls in love with a much younger man. This shared bond moves father and son even closer together, creating a critically acclaimed film that is heartfelt and touching.

“I only get to tell this story once,” Mills says, “so I wanted it to be bighearted, for a big audience, progressive and innovative and, like my father — deeply wanting to connect to other people.”

“Beginners” is available starting Nov. 1 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.

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© 2011 Universal Studios

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