Friday, June 17, 2011
Like many of my reviews, I first saw this film last September at the Toronto Film Festival. But unlike most of the films I saw there, I had no intention or interest in seeing it. Nevertheless I had a free window and there wasn't anything else too appealing playing so I figured I'd give it a shot. And I'm really glad I did because it was easily one of the best films of the 38 that I saw there. So the question was, would I have the same feeling nine months later at my second viewing?
Ewan McGregor plays an artist overwhelmed by sadness. And with good reason. His mom passed away five years prior. Shortly after that his dad, played by Christopher Plummer, came out of the closet and began dating men. Shortly after that Plummer's character was diagnosed with cancer. And then just recently he passed away. The film is told non-linearly, bouncing back and forth between McGregor's last years with his father, his childhood with his mother, played by Mary Page Keller, and present day when he's met a new girl, played by Melanie Laurent. Of course, the description doesn't do the film justice (and neither does the movie poster, of which the tone is very misleading.)
This is a film about love, understanding, family, sadness, grief, life, and death. It's heartbreaking but also life affirming. It's sad but also sweet and heartfelt. It's a quiet film and it's very comfortable with its quietness, and embraces the quiet in all the right places. But even though it's sad by nature I don't think you leave the theater feeling overwhelmingly sad, but rather with just the right balance of emotion. At least I did. Twice.
Simply put, this is easily the best film of the year and the only Oscar worthy picture so far. It's way early but I think it deserves a Best Picture nomination and all of the performances are nomination worthy as well. I've never seen Ewan McGregor better. He delivers more with a look than most actors could ever do with the perfect line. And the same goes for Plummer, Laurent, and Keller. Frankly, even the dog probably deserves a nomination, and I'm not even kidding. And when all the performances are that great, and the tone is that perfect, you have to give credit to the director, Mike Mills, who in this case was also the writer. His only other feature film credit is 'Thumbsucker' and I don't remember it being that good, but I may have to give it another try because he's clearly an amazing filmmaker.
This film totally deserves more recognition than it will undoubtedly receive, but unfortunately it's not the kind of movie that attracts a wide audience, and it was released too early in the year and Academy voters have short memories. Well, it gets my highest grade and I won't soon forget it.