Writer-director Mike Mills’ tender 2010 comedy-drama Beginners took inspiration from his father’s decision to come out as gay at the age of 75. For 20th Century Women, the spur is his mother.
A reimagining of Mills’ teenage years in late-1970s California, the film centres on a bohemian, slightly ramshackle household in Santa Barbara where 55-year-old divorcee Dorothea (Annette Bening) is raising her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) with help from her lodger, 24-year-old photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig), and from Jamie’s free-spirited, sexually active young friend Julie (Elle Fanning).
Amid an array of strong female performances, the Oscar-nominated Bening holds her own as the lonely but resilient Dorothea, an older mom sometimes baffled by her adolescent son but always open hearted and open-minded. However, this sometimes funny, always charming film isn’t just a portrait of a fascinating woman but of an era, too, capturing the final flourishing of hippie idealism and punk-rock radicalism on the cusp of the materialistic Reaganite 1980s.
Certificate 15. Runtime 114 mins. Director Mike Mills
20th Century Women available on DVD & Digital Download from Entertainment One.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.