Are We Married Yet?
Beginners opens with two silent shots—a close up of a vase of semi-fresh daisies and then a vacant living room with several boxes stacked to one side. In the next scene, also mostly silent, a young man removes some shirts from a closet, folds them, and places them in a box. He empties the contents of several medication containers into a toilet; then more scenes of clearing a house of its belongings: looking through the content of boxes, carrying trash bags to a growing pile of trash outside.
The first time the young man speaks is to a Jack Russell terrier that has been following him around. “Arthur, you’re coming to live with me now, ok?” Soon after this, a narrative in this same person’s voice, along with a series of rapid stills, gives an historical context to what we will see unfold in the rest of the film. The narrator gives a brief account of his parents’ marriage, his birth, and the eventual deaths, 4 years apart, of his parents. We also learn that the narrator’s 75-year-old father, after 43 years of marriage, and 6 months after the death of his wife, came out as gay. As the narrator/son recalls that moment we switch into a flashback of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), saying “I loved your mother, but now I want to explore this side… I don’t want to be just theoretically gay. I want to do something about it.” Interspersed throughout the rest of the film we see Hal living quite joyfully with a younger partner, even as he deals with the diagnosis of a terminal cancer.