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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners
Posted May 17, 2011 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"
Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.
Mike Mills' sophomore movie BEGINNERS depicts one of the most complex and interesting father-son relationships seen on screen in recent years. In the movies, as well as in real life, father-son relationships, like most male/male interactions, are often awkward and understated. In BEGINNERS, however, the emotional interaction between thirtysomething Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his aging father, Hal (Christopher Plummer, in an Oscar-winning performance), is refreshingly open and direct. This openness is no doubt a consequence of the powerfully honest admission Hal makes at the film’s beginning, that, after his wife has passed away, he has decided to come out of the closet. For director Mike Mills, this real-life event inspired his movie. “BEGINNERS started when my father came out of the closet,” writer-director Mike Mills says in his director's statement. “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. Change, honesty, and openness can happen when it seems least likely. Even as he passed away five years later to cancer he was energized, reaching out; he wasn't in any way finished.” BEGINNERS explores the wonderfully messy relationships that take place between people––between a man and a woman, between parents, between two men, and perhaps most poignantly between a father and his son. As such BEGINNERS joins a tradition of films exploring the complex father/son bond, a connection that the following movies deal with often by rooting their emotional dramas in real-life father and son relationships.