You know that you can't really take a movie seriously when it stars BOTH Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock - it might be about the most important, most serious subject ever, still you know that you can't take it seriously. So I went to this one expecting more or less what I'd get (I knew the director's name, too, of course), and I got it. It's basically a forgettable movie - not worse than The Help and The Descendants though.
It's possible that the novel it's based on is a very good one, I have no idea - but what may be believable in a book doesn't necessarily work in a movie, and even taken as a contemporary fairy tale (the only way one can see it) it doesn't make much sense. And one can only hope that the much-praised Jonathan Safran Foer wrote something edgier than what would seem, from this movie, nothing more than conventional-tearjerker material.
A tearjerker without tears, by the way. Or maybe it was just me - it's possible that Americans, for obvious reasons closer than me to the real events that this movie deals with, found it, or will find it, very moving. I always respect tears - but sometimes I respect less what produces tears, and honestly this is a case when you are told even too precisely (by the music, but not only) that and when you MUST cry. By then, though, your connection with the movie will most probably be long gone.
For a film with such a young protagonist, it lacks any real insight into the world of childhood, and while obviously not realistic, it lacks magic, too. The young actor is admittedly well-directed (Stephen Daldry did it before, and with even better results), but I'd say too carefully directed - it is, basically, a Tatum O'Neal-type performance. Good, but never really spontaneous. But good or not good, his character is the most precocious "precocious child" ever, and since he's in every single scene of the movie, it gets irritating after a while.
This isn't just any movie about 9/11 - it's a Stephen Daldry movie about 9/11, so there are countless other issues too, and most of these issues are quickly touched and then left. The character played by Max Von Sydow is a typical example - more than a human being, it's a literary concept, a walking symbol (so it's maybe appropriate that it's played by the man who played chess with Death) - and of course it's always nice to see one of the greatest living actors, and one of the most expressive faces, in a movie, but still... Well, let's say that before seeing this movie I felt that Von Sydow could very possibly win Best Supporting Actor, but now I'm not so sure anymore. If Christopher Plummer doesn't have much to do in Beginners, Von Sydow has even less to do here - basically, just a few reaction shots. Reaction shots a la Scandinavian, so more intense than the movie probably deserves even, but not much more than that. He will still get many votes for his career, definitely, but I guess not enough to lead him to the podium.