December 5, 2011 -- A first impression is that this movie is more about endings than it is about beginnings, but that is just because there is such an emphasis on death throughout the movie. It turns out that this film is also about beginnings. It just takes a while to get past those endings to get to the beginnings.
Oliver Fields (played by chameleon-like actor Ewan McGregor of the “Star Wars” movies) is a melancholy charcter who works in some kind of advertising agency as an artist. He seems genuinely perplexed at one point why a musical group would not want his artwork about “the history of sadness” for their musical album cover art. The agency keeps him on for some reason. The artwork isn't actually there to sell anything, it is to express McGregor's inner mood for the film.
Oliver meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent of “Inglourious Basterds”), a beautiful melancholy French actress who has suicidal thoughts. The two decide they have much in common and become lovers. Neither has ever had an lasting relationship, so neither Oliver or Anna thinks this one will last.
Oliver has other issues. Oliver's mother died of cancer five years earlier. After his mother's death, his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer of “The Last Station”) announces that he is gay and wants to explore that side of life. He takes up with a young gay man Andy (Goran Visnjic of “Elektra”) and becomes involved in gay groups and gay issues. Oliver has trouble adjusting to this sudden change. He learns that his mother knew of her husband's true nature when they married. Both parents stayed together for many years, despite their sexual differences. Oliver wants to be married, but not like that. He is afraid that he and Anna might be on a path to a marriage of incompatibility and decides to bail out.
Despite numerous flashbacks to Oliver's childhood, and to the time when Hal was alive, the main relationship in the movie is between Oliver and Anna. Everything between the two seems good until Anna moves into Oliver's house. Suddenly, both Oliver and Anna become moody and distant. The reasons for this are hinted at, but not well explored in the film. Both are melancholy, moody artistic types, so it not surprising their moods are mercurial, but the mood shift could have been handled better.
An odd thing about this film is that while it is set in America, all the lead actors are foreign born. You've got a Canadian (Plummer), a Scot (McGregor), a Croat (Visnjic) along with a French actress (Laurent). This not terribly unusual in American films. These are tough economic times. How about American movie studios giving some American actors a little more work?
This film had good performances by McGregor, Plummer and Laurent. Visnjic's character, Andy seemed out of place in the film. The idea of a cute little dog communicating with people by telepathy is another unusual feature of this film. I liked the way it was done (with subtitles) and it worked pretty well. At one point, the dog thinks “I know 150 words, but I don't talk.” Funny stuff. This film rates a B.
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