First Images from BEGINNERS and BRIGHTON ROCK

     August 18, 2010

Yesterday we posted the first images from writer/director Guy Moshe’s Bunraku and Werner Herzog’s first 3D movie Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  Like I said in the intros, we’ve been given a ton of first look images from a lot of the movies premiering at the Festivals over the next few weeks, and we’ll be posting tons of them every day for the foreseeable future.  Anyway, today we continue our first look series with writer/director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) Beginners and writer/director Rowan Joffe’s Brighton Rock.  The two films star Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Control’s Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, and Helen Mirren.  Hit the jump for the images and the synopses.  Both sound like they’re worth your time:

Since the TIFF website offers a short and more detailed synopsis, I’m offering both.  Up first will be the short synopsis followed by the images and then the extended version.  Look for a lot more image articles every day.  Trust me, this is just the beginning.  All synopses via the TIFF website (Beginners and Brighton Rock).

Beginners

Mike Mills

When his seventy-one-year-old father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) must explore the honesty of his own relationships. From the director of Thumbsucker.

  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2010
  • Language: English
  • Producer: Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Miranda de Pencier, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy
  • Screenplay: Mike Mills
  • Runtime: 104

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Five years after Thumbsucker, director Mike Mills returns to the Festival with another winning indie dramedy that balances humour, sorrow and romance with aplomb.
Beginners deftly juggles two chronologies to tell the heartwarming story of two major points in the life of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a talented illustrator.

One timeline follows the slow-burning deterioration of Oliver’s father (Christopher Plummer), who is dying of cancer. But his impending death is not the only news that has caught Oliver off guard; his divorced father, at the age of seventy-five, has also come out of the closet. Just like that, he gets a new wardrobe, a new boyfriend and an entirely new outlook on life.

Following his father’s death, a bereaved Oliver becomes somewhat of a shut-in. As Beginners takes us through his personal journey, the film flashes forward, intercutting a budding relationship between Oliver and a young French actress (Inglourious Basterd’s Mélanie Laurent) whom he meets at a costume party that he attends under duress. The twin narratives gradually reveal subtle associations about how Oliver reacts to both these unpredictable relationships, and how his father and girlfriend motivate him to surpass his self-prescribed limitations.

McGregor and Laurent have natural onscreen chemistry, and Plummer is outstanding in his rich portrayal of a dying man who is finally able to live honestly, breaking out of his shell so near the end of his life. The ensemble cast lends the film a warm, understated aura that never feels the least bit contrived.

Mills is at the top of his game in crafting dynamic mood pieces that steer clear of the usual trappings found in American independent cinema. The outcome is a thoroughly enjoyable character study about people opening up and discovering themselves despite age, preconceptions and illness.

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Brighton Rock

Rowan Joffe

Based on Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, we follow the odd relationship between a young thug on the rise in the British underground and a tea room waitress who witnesses a crime he has committed.

  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Year: 2009
  • Language: English
  • Producer: Paul Webster
  • Executive Producer: Jamie Laurenson
  • Screenplay: Rowan Joffe
  • Runtime: 111

Graham Greene’s chilling 1938 novel Brighton Rock provides the inspiration for Rowan Joffe’s smart, visually striking and immaculately acted debut feature. In 1947, the book was made into a renowned film of the same name with Richard Attenborough in the lead role, but has since remained untouched. Significantly, Joffe has altered the time period for his adaptation from the thirties to the early sixties, an era when working-class British gangsters and thugs like the Kray Twins rose to prominence.

Despite this transposition, the core of Greene’s tough, uncompromising fiction remains fully intact. It follows the young anti-hero Pinkie (Control’s Sam Riley, in a performance of intense cunning and charm) as he tries to make his mark on the vicious gangland scene in Brighton. Young, brash, ruthless and cold-hearted, Pinkie is a steely-eyed shark slithering through the underworld. When Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a young waitress, stumbles on evidence that links Pinkie and his gang to a revenge killing he has committed, Pinkie realizes he has to tie up loose ends. He carefully stalks his new prey in an attempt to discover how much Rose really knows and, ultimately, ensure she won’t talk. This love story between a murderer and a witness, a snarling bad boy and a naïve young waif, is a haunting exploration of familiar Greene themes: the nature of sin and the characteristics that constitute morality.

It is not long before Rose’s wise and world-weary boss, Ida (Helen Mirren), develops a funny feeling about the odd relationship between Rose and the disturbingly enigmatic Pinkie. As clashes between Mods and Rockers play out in the background, Pinkie finds he has to ward off Ida’s growing suspicions, while also keeping Rose in the dark about what is really going on. This delicate psychological dance is beautifully depicted by this stellar trio of British actors. Building the drama further is a stunning visual design that fully captures the dark and claustrophobic mood of Greene’s violent and sexually daring masterpiece.

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