The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

In an empty cinema no one can hear you cry

with 14 comments

I’ve been a cinema visitor for about 40 years. But I’ve never found myself to be the only person in the audience until the other night, as I watched Beginners.

“Where do you want to sit?” asked the girl in the ticket box and I shrugged at her with a faint smile. “You tell me”. And she aimed and put her cross exactly in the middle of the salon. “Here”.

I waited patiently through the commercials, but once they were over, I felt that I was no longer under any obligation to adjust to the Wittertainment’s code of conduct. So I took off my shoes, knowing that I was likely to be resistant to the possible smell that would come out, and threw up my feet on the back of the seat in front of me, making myself as comfortable as I could. This was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, so I could as well make full use of it.

Tears in my eyes
And I guess I did, but in a different way than I had expected. The movie had all but started when I felt the first tears filling my eyes until they couldn’t hold anymore. Slowly the fluid surrendered to gravitation and started to fall down on my chin. And so it went on more or less through the entire movie – a silent, gentle and every so slow rain of tears, which never hold up for more than a few minutes at a time.

I didn’t sob loudly, because it wasn’t that kind of tears. But I sniffed every once in a while, without shame or fear or restraints, since I knew I was on my own. And I was grateful. If I ever was to watch a movie on my own, this was the perfect one for it.

Hopeful story
I’m not quite sure why it filled me with such a deep melancholy. Actually the story is more hopeful than depressing when I think of it.

Christopher Plummer is the father, who at the age of 75, after 44 years of marriage comes out as gay after the death of his wife.  He doesn’t let the fact that he’s got terminal cancer stop him from finally getting a lover, cherishing life and making the best he possibly could of whatever remains of it.

Ewan McGregor is his 38 years old son, who has to deal first with the shock about the true nature of his parent’s marriage, and then with the loss of his father. With a history of previously non-working relationships he meets Anna, a French actress and love starts to grow. Maybe it will be different this time?

Not much to be cry about, is there? And yet I cried, and I’d lie if I’d say that it was only because it was so beautiful and touching and uplifting, that it was the happy-end-kind-of-tears.

Some of them were, that’s for sure.  Others were previously unshed tears over my father, who I unlike in the movie really never got to know. There were also tears of sadness from the insight that deep down, we’re all essentially on our own, utterly alone. It takes courage to reach out and let others come emotionally close to us. Maybe there’s a potential for everyone to experience it, but it doesn’t come automatically and without effort.

Profound and cleansing
I think Beginners is one of those movies that don’t work for everyone. Your experience of it depends highly on your personal luggage and your mood as you see it. Watching it in a full salon with people who laugh in the wrong places, chain-chug crisps and let their fingers fly like butterflies over their cell phones definitely wouldn’t have been the same as to see it on my own.

I found it profound and cleansing. And actually – in the midst of all this sadness I’ve been going on about – quite funny and charming. I even smiled every now and then through the mist of tears, not the least at the absolutely enchanting Jack Russel Terrier who “talks” to the son through subtitles, reminding me a little bit of the commentary Snowy, Tintin’s dog.

The only reason for me not to give it the highest rating is the French girlfriend, played by Mélanie Laurent, who is a little bit “too perfect” to click with me. She looks gorgeous, quirky, smart, successful, and if she’s a little bit fucked up (she must be, it’s an indie type film), it’s in a way that makes you more interested than put off. But what do I know; maybe I’m just envious about not being her?

In any case, Beginners was a truly wonderful movie, one of the best I’ve seen this year.

It’s a little disheartening that it doesn’t manage to attract a bigger audience. It certainly deserves more.

Beginners (Mills, US, 2010). My rating: 4,5/5

PS
We have an announcement from the staff:  I’ll be away from the café over the next week going for a vacation trip to Scotland. However, since I’ve had a lot of movie thoughts on my mind lately, I’ve prewritten a few posts which will be served while I’m gone.

Written by Jessica

July 28, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Beginners

14 Responses

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  1. I was alone in a cinema theatre once. It was a matine showing of Starship Troopers in one of Stockholm’s largest cinemas and I half expected the staff to come in and ask me if I perhaps could watch another movie that more people wanted to see. Felt a bit odd sitting there all alone.

    Enjoy your trip to Scotland!

    Tessy

    July 28, 2011 at 11:46 am

    • Wow, that must have been an odd experiece, with that kind of movie in that kind of setting. But kind of majestetic. Didn’t it give you a bit of the feeling of being alone in the controle room of SS Enterprise, sitting in the chair of command?´

      I too feared they’d try to talk me into cancelling, but they didn’t which I think was awesome.

      Jessica

      July 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm

  2. It’s happened to me twice now that no one else wanted to see the movie I went to – but I wasn’t entirely alone. The first one my sister was with me and the second time my brother was. It was a special feeling nonetheless though, with just the two of us sitting in the movie theatre having all of it to ourselves.

    I’ve not seen this movie, but maybe I’ll pick it up on DVD once that’s possible – since judging from your review it’s not really something that would work out well if there was a room full of people there with me. Some movies I really do prefer watching alone. It may seem silly, but it’s nice to be able to let the tears run freely without worrying about people seeing you at times.

    Em

    July 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    • Some movies lose a lot when you go from a bigger screen to a smaller format, but I don’t think this is one of them, so I think you’ll be fine off with a DVD.

      Jessica

      July 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

  3. When I was alone, I threw a couple skittles at the screen. You know, just for old time’s sake (such a juvenile thing to do). Then I grew paranoid that there was a cinema employee up in the projector room that was going to kick me out, so I hunkered down and pretended to be a chair. I think I fooled him.

    When I was with my wife, we giggled and suggested we make out heavily. However, the aforementioned imaginary lurking cinema employee stopped us short. That, and married people don’t make out. Especially when there is $20 involved. Nah, we watched the movie holding hands and put our feet up.

    We made out when we got home ;-).

    Matt

    July 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    • I did throw a couple of glances towards the projector room, considering the possibility that an angry lurker would intervene before I decided to take the risk to up my feet on the chair in front of me.

      I never considered making out with myself though. Not that kind of movie 😉

      Jessica

      July 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  4. […] 4. Beginners I cried. […]

  5. […] first one is Beginners. It made me cry and I suppose that must have meant something. There was something in it I connected […]

  6. I’m glad you enjoyed this one as much as you obviously did. Watching it in an empty cinema must have contributed to the perfect experience for this kind of movie. I watched it at home, but like you mentioned, I didn’t connect with it in the same way as you did. I still enjoyed the movie and it’s a shame it didn’t find a wider audience. The main problem must’ve been that it was shown during summer. This is clearly a fall or winter kind of movie and I’m sure it would’ve worked far better had it been promoted later.

    Movies - Noir

    December 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    • I’ve seen it on a few of the end-of-the-year lists that critics have voted for, so I hope it will get a bit more of recognition. Who knows, perhaps Plummer could be considered for an Oscar? You can always hope for it…

      Jessica

      December 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

  7. […] 4. Beginners Based on a true story it’s a movie about a son whose father comes out as gay at the age of 75 after the death of his mother. I will remember it as the movie of 2011 that made me cry most, but thanks to its humor I also find myself smiling through my veil of tears. […]

  8. […] The Velvet Café hade betydligt fler superlativer över för den här filmen medans Movies-Noir tyckte ungefääääär som jag. […]

    BEGINNERS

    January 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

  9. So I’m reading this, like, what? 7 months late? Ah well, that’s ok. I really appreciate your personalized tone of this review. It hit me on a very profound personal level too, though I can’t quite say why for certain. Nothing in the film has particularly mirrored my own existence yet it felt extremely universal anyway. I think it makes us tear up so consistently throughout it (not that I teared up throughout it, though maybe I did a little) because like real life it just kind of bounds back and forth between happiness and sadness over and over without end.

    Anyway, good stuff.

    Nick

    February 17, 2012 at 4:40 am

    • Thank you Nick for your kind words. It makes me happy when people still read and comment on old posts like this one, especially when they connect with them like you did here. Blogging brings people together.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2012 at 7:12 am


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