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Film Review – Beginners

Film: Beginners
Director: Mike Mills
Screenplay: Mike Mills
Players: Ewan McGregor; Christopher Plummer; Mélanie Laurent; Goran Visnjic; Mary Page Keller
Genre: drama; romance; comedy
Rating: ***½

Here is a film which manages to be uplifting without being cheering: the relationship issues are thought-provoking, even poignant in places but the characters’ intensity and complexity of feeling can also be overwhelmingly claustrophobic for the viewer..
Part of the reason for this complicated situation is that one must become involved with the characters because they are likeable. Oliver (McGregor) is 38 years old but for the past 5 years has been irretrievably involved with his 80-year-old father (Plummer). The moment that Hal Fields (Plummer) had laid his wife to rest he comes out of the closet to confess to his son that he was gay and had always been that way. This confession is done with a close-up of Hal’s face: his ecstatic grin and the sheer joy of the confession is a tremendous relief for him after 38 years of silence. Having dreamed of this moment for years, Hal has planned the remainder of his life down to the last gay pride rainbow. He tries to crowd a lifetime of homosexual incident into the time he has left.
Mills directed and wrote the screenplay and the plotline was based on the real-life confession of his own father. It is therefore no wonder that the character of Oliver, played with great charm and gentleness by McGregor, is depicted with such complexity – and sensitivity.
The title refers not only to Hal’s great coming out, as he begins the life after which he has always yearned. It applies equally to his son, Oliver, who seems a lone spirit, self-contained but with no emotional outlet except for the stream-of-consciousness outpourings that he shares with his scruffy Jack Russell terrier, Arthur. Arthur, played by Cosmo, deserved an Oscar of his own. The dog demonstrates great loyalty and canny understanding of his master’s problems. There is quirky humour in the fact that the dog is given dialogue in the form of subtitles and he is not averse to offering some pertinent and useful advice.
Perhaps it is indicative of Oliver’s emotional insecurity that he is emotionally blackmailed into taking Arthur everywhere with him, even to parties. The film endeavours to explain Oliver’s life by treating three segments of it: firstly, his youth with his mother, Georgia (Keller) a frothy, cynically humorous lady who wafted through their home with the same grace as she cruised round art galleries, with Oliver in tow.
Is Oliver’s emotional isolation a product of a loveless marriage? One wonders. He confesses to four failed relationships of his own. He soldiers through his father’s prolonged cancer and virtually makes a gift of five years of his life. Hal Fields remains ebullient to the end, surrounded by a circle of his Gay Pride friends. The film starts with a group of men in hard hats who are holding a ceremonial fireworks display as a tribute to Hal. One imagines them to be builders or some other macho group; it is, in fact his send-off by his Gay Pride buddies.
This colourful situation, though, is almost a backdrop against which the main drama is played. Oliver’s friend, Elliot, bullies him to come out of his self-imposed shell and accompany him to a fancy-dress party. Oliver wanders along with Arthur, the dog, in tow and he is dressed as Sigmund Freud. This disguise proves inspirational because he can sit puffing away on a pipe, pretending to analyse various party guests without bridging any emotional chasms. Then Anna, a French actress acquires the couch and, ironically, cannot communicate with him except by using a little spiral notebook on which she writes engaging little notes. This is not a physical defect; she is suffering from laryngitis.
Oliver finds himself giving Anna his number: perhaps this is typical of a man with low trust levels. The advances must come from her. Anna, it transpires, has moved round the world for most of her life: her complex is the knowledge that she is destined, or compelled, to keep moving on, leaving people behind. Oliver tells her bitterly, “You can stay in the same place and still find ways to leave people.” Perhaps this is a veiled reference to his father.
Eventually Oliver and Anna move in together, both pessimistic in the knowledge that it cannot or will not work. Since both of them are convinced of this self-fulfilling prophecy, Anna does leave, partly because of her compulsion and partly because of Oliver’s prodding for her to go. He does not want to commit. He confesses in a voice-over,” I don’t believe it will really work; and then I make sure that it doesn’t.”
When Oliver realises that he finds Anna attractive, he derides himself ‘falling again at the age of 38.’ He confesses “It’s like I lost the instructions (to life).”
There is something essentially sad about this couple, both of whom are so fragile, yet so needy. Oliver saw his father truly happy for the last five years of his life and comes to appreciate that the toy-boy lover is more than a pretty face. Both mother and father tried to teach him lessons for life but at 38 he was not graduating cum laude. I personally liked the mother’s aim for her son:” Here is simple and happy. That’s what I meant to give you. “  On that note Oliver becomes a beginner in life – again.

About The Author

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.