USA, 2016 | Mike Mills
English | 118 minutes
With: Annette Benning, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup
Film Circuit favourite Mike Mills is back with the eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut, Beginners. Following that film’s exploration of Mills’ adult relationship with his father, 20th Century Women looks back to the director’s life growing up with his mother in Santa Barbara, California, telling a loosely autobiographical tale of the women who helped shape him.
Despite incessant renovations on her sprawling old house, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening, Danny Collins, The Kids Are Alright) nonetheless maintains an open-door policy that provides a home base not just for her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), but also for Jamie’s close-friend-next-door Julie (Elle Fanning, Trumbo, Ginger & Rosa), twentysomething lodger Abbie (Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s Plan, Frances Ha), and local mechanic William (Billy Crudup, Spotlight, The Stanford Prison Experiement). With no paternal presence for Jamie, Dorothea recruits Abbie as a role model for him. However, their makeshift family arrangement is complicated by Abbie’s own distracted self-searching and Jamie’s burgeoning feelings for Julie.
20th Century Women presents a subtly layered view of the turbulent final moments of 1970s America, enriched by Mills’ skilled infusion of era-appropriate music and fashion. Ultimately, however, the film’s performances shine brightest as Bening’s brilliant work is supported beautifully by Gerwig, Fanning, Crudup, and newcomer Zumann, all of whom contribute to making Mills’ sophomore effort a must-see.