We’re All Beginners

Beginners is a very persuasive film, largely due to nuanced performances—and that includes the charming Jack Russell terrier who plays Arthur, a four-legged grief counselor (via subtitles).

Unlikely as it sounds, director Mike Mills weaves all of these emotional storylines together—and anthropomorphizes a canine—without stumbling into sentimentality or emotional manipulation.

It feels true, lived-in, every single moment.

When I met Mills and his leading man, Ewan McGregor, at the Seattle International Film Festival, Mills said that he’d given his actors a challenge. “I remember saying, ‘Help me not make this a narcissistic, self-pitying, sentimental memoir.’ I love films that are naturalistic and organic, when you feel the truth of life is in there somewhere.”

The cast responded. And the film is wonderful.

You can read my full review, including more from my conversation with director Mike Mills and star Ewan McGregor, at Image’s blog, Good Letters.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.


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