Beginners comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with a very impressive 1080p video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Shot with the Red One camera, which has earned itself a reputation as providing a very distinctive digital look, the image looks truly spectacular on several occasions, and shockingly disappointing on a couple of others. Still, there’s plenty more good than bad, with detail coming across staggeringly good for the most part – the very close-up shots of the lead characters betraying their every feeling, their every emotion through the intimate examination on offer. The colour scheme offers up a very naturalistic look to the settings chosen; ever symbolically reflective of the tone within the piece, with the most vibrant colours coming mainly from either Hal’s early stage flashbacks or Oliver’s graphic artist workplace. This would easily be demo quality – and in many scenes is – but for a couple of shocking blemishes: at one point it looks like somebody has ridden a bicycle across the screen and left faint track marks all over. It doesn’t last very long, only a few frames, but it’s enough to complain about, and mark it down consequently. Which is a real shame, because there’s some stunning close-up shots on offer here, with some of the best 3D pop I’ve ever come across in such a comparatively basic production.
On the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offering does a solid job at professionally rendering what is a largely unremarkable soundtrack. There’s simply nothing to truly bite into in terms of material, and yet the track does pretty well nevertheless, providing us with clear and coherent dialogue, largely disseminated from across the fronts and centre channels; some nice effects observations which broach out to take up some space in the surrounds, and even kick in a hint of LFE accompaniment; and a suitably contemplative, piano-dominated score which lets the engine of this piece idle contentedly even when it’s not being driven hard. Indeed some might argue that the sombre, restrained, and minimalistic style adopted works well for this particular material, and lends it an air of credibility beyond what the subject-matter already affords.
Whilst not packed to the brim, we get a couple of decent extras that tick all the right boxes and provide fans with a suitably no-frills look behind the production.
Audio Commentary with Writer / Director Mike Mills is a quality offering which offers some much-wanted insight into the film, the story behind it, and the real-life events behind that; with Mills getting down and personal in several spots, as he talks about what he went through himself and juxtaposes that with what we see on screen. Not to avoid the technical, he often takes time to also discuss the shoot, his experience making the film, and what it was like working with the actors. All in all, a much-recommended listen for those who enjoyed the movie.
A Short Film About Beginners turns the conventional idea of an EPK Featurette on its head, and instead offers up an, again, much more honest look behind the production, with Mills spending a quarter of an hour talking about his craft, how he bringing films to life, and the very personal tale that he had to tell here.
Rounding off the disc we get a short, minute-long Promo for the main feature.
If, like me, you’ve put off seeing Beginners for any one of many, understandable, reasons; or if you’ve just never heard much about it other than in passing, then I strongly recommend you don’t delay any further.
At once sweet and touching, yet also unconventionally honest, it’s a warm and easily relatable tale which looks at our own personal quests to find happiness, as juxtaposed with the notion of being satisfied with what you’ve got. With a trio of excellent performances – Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer standing out, but Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent showcasing great, genuinely palpable chemistry – this very personal, semi-autobiographical tale could teach you a thing or two about life and life, whatever age you may be.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get generally excellent video, solid audio, and a couple of decent extras to round off the disc. If you appreciated the kind of insight afforded in a quality life drama like The Descendants, then you may well be pleasantly surprised by what Beginners has to offer. Recommended.
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