After a noticeable absence of over five years, director Mike Mills is back with 20th Century Women, the much-anticipated follow-up to his 2011 critical darling, Beginners. The latter film engendered lots of good will for the filmmaker upon its release and even netted an Oscar for its star Christopher Plummer as a man who declares his homosexuality after his wife dies. While Beginners was a tale of fathers and sons and coming to terms with their identity, Mills’ latest film could be described as his take on mothers and sons. In that respect it definitely has more than a passing connection to Mills’ previous film while also having its own unique identity.

The filmmaker isn’t retreading old ground here but instead spinning a new tale that’s as moving as Beginners and maybe even a bit more accomplished and satisfying.

The film is best described as an ensemble piece but the glue that holds the whole thing together is Annette Bening in yet another luminous performance as the matriarch of a make shift family of sorts. Some of the people in her universe are related by blood and some are there by circumstance but it’s obvious that all are equally important in her world.

20th Century Women Official Trailer #2 (2017) Elle Fanning Comedy Drama Movie HD

20th Century Women Trailer 2 (2017) Elle Fanning Comedy Drama Movie HD [Official Trailer]

The film takes place in 1979 and spins the tale of Dorothea Fields. Dorothea wants the best for her son, Jamie (Lucas jade Zumann) and it’s clear that she’s a bit conflicted. She’s both overprotective to a certain degree but also wants her son to be his own person. To make ends meet and partially because of her generous spirit, Dorothea rents out her house to an odd assortment of characters. These include a handyman (Billy Crudup), a social outcast with a penchant for punk rock/photography (Greta Gerwig) and her son Jamie’s secret crush, Julie (Elle Fanning). How they come touch each other’s lives and help Jamie come of age form the basis of the film.

Mills must be commended for both his attention to period detail and the quirky directorial touch that he brings to the proceedings. These are only two of the positive attributes to be found in 20th Century Women. It’s a low key affair but quietly affecting. It will most assuredly be a nice alternative in the weeks to come, when the studios are busy dumping films into theaters that were too awful to release at any other time than the dead of winter. As such, this one is a bit of a beacon of light.

Photo: Cast of 20th Century Women
This film opens January 20, most likely on screens in Charlotte or Winston-Salem.
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