This is not a story of how a man grieves his father’s death, or a man who is angry because his father was gay all the time he’s been with the family, but a story about the fear of relationships, where you cannot be yourself, cannot express yourself, cannot live your short life, because you are too busy living by others’ dictated lines.
Surprise comes in all shapes and forms
“Six months after his mother dies, Oliver’s father tells him something startling: “I am gay.”
His father is 75 and was married for 38 years. Oliver himself is about 38 when he learns this news and is in a different sort of closet: Afraid of failing, afraid of commitment, afraid to trust, he has never had a meaningful relationship. “Beginners” is about how both men find love. It is a film in which only a dog named Arthur seems to hold everything in perspective.”
Hal (portrayed by Christopher Plummer) is a 75-year-old widower. He wanted to be a responsible man. He wanted the family to stay together, to make everything alright, and to let things stay the way it is for as long as it could.
6 months after the death of his wife, he told his son: “I’m gay. I loved your mother, but I don’t want to be just theoretically gay, I want to do something about it.” He found a young lover, Andy, whose “father never spoke to him again, after he came out” and Andy has been attracted to older man ever since. Hal started to seek for a gay priest to help him spiritually, seek advice from therapist, joined Los Angeles Pride events. And four years after coming out, Hal died – cancer.
Oliver was still a young boy, but he understood the loveless marriage of his parents, by the way his dad kissed his mom every day before heading to work, but that kiss, was not a kiss from a man who loves his wife dearly, but a man, who fulfills his duty. The kiss left the wife with confusion, with lonesome, with desperate silence and noiseless scream of attention.
That kiss, left the child with an eternal wonder, of how a man so dedicated to his wife, could not love her? He could not make her smile brighter and genuine, he could not make her less lonely at night, and he could not wipe the tears she shed inside. That is something a child cannot understand, but he can feel it from his mother’s wordless expression. And from that point on, nothing can actually work out.
Hide your emotions, hide your feelings
Sometimes to stay alive and sane, you have to turn off of your mind, your emotions, and stop showing it all on the surface. I suspect Hal – the father, has done just that. At least he didn’t try to kill himself. Yet the dark side of pretending like you have no feeling at all is that it shows, and it affects people around you.
They may recognize it like Oliver saw through his parents’ unhappy marriage, and he chooses not to go on the same road, because to him, marriage isn’t worth that much. They will see through your mask, and know every word going out of your mouth is just a recording of what you want people to hear. But what can I say; we are made to hurt each other.
Our expectations are too big and too deep, we never stop expecting, never stop hoping for something extraordinary to happen to us, and that expectation is the root of all our disappointment.
Don’t expect too much from love, don’t expect that because you love them this much, they will definitely love you back like they should. Don’t put the pressure on them to love you like you want. That’s not love; it’s just something you justify for your own good. If you do love them, let them be the way they are, even when they have walked away from you, even when you choose to leave them.
Hal: let’s say since you were little, and you’ve always dreamed of someday getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait and the lion doesn’t come. Then along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe.
Oliver: I’d wait for the lion.
Hal: That’s why I worry about you.
I guess at the end of the day, there are only two types, those who will choose to be with the giraffe, and those who wait for a lion that never comes.
Will love find a way to ease his pain?
In a funny and touching scene, the confused, grieving Oliver meets Anna at a fancy-dress party where he’s dressed as an old-style shrink (presumably Sigmund Freud) and she pretends to be an analysand, thus establishing something distancing, therapeutic and slightly whimsical about their relationship.
Oliver is still a “beginner,” in a sense that he is not entirely understand how relationship works, much like his father was with Andy, Oliver’s relationship with Anna is far from perfect, but what ultimately saves it from peril is Oliver’s diligence in maintaining honesty and perseverance for love, even when things become difficult.
What makes this movie special to me, is the fact that love is a real mess – be it with your father, your girlfriend, your boyfriend. It is almost guarantee things will go the wrong directions sometimes, but ultimately, staying true to yourself and your feeling, and think about the person in the relationship with you to do your best, to enjoy to the fullest. So that no matter how the story ends, there is no regret.