Director: Mike Mills
We’ve had the good fortune of knowing Mike Mills for almost twenty years. We don’t get to see him often enough, but when we get together there is always an immediate kinship. We seem to travel on parallel paths with Mike, making films around the same time, every five years or so.
We first got to know him around the time his mother died. We had Mike, his Dad, and his Dad’s dog over for dinner one night not long after. Over the years during our occasional check-ins with Mike, we heard bits and pieces of their experiences together in what was to become “Beginners.”
Luckily for audiences, you don’t have to be friends with Mike to know him. His voice is evident in every character, which means they are all worth listening to, they’ve got valuable insights to offer and cool cultural references to share. They’re unconventional, imaginative, anti-establishment, freethinking, flawed and fun. They like to dance to great music, embrace their spirit animals, set off fireworks, roller skate through hotel hallways, talk to dogs, restore old houses and fly vintage biplanes. You get to peer into their world and hear their thoughts. You’d like to have them all over for dinner.
Now Mike has a new film, “20th Century Women” which is loosely based on his relationship with his mother and it’s his most compelling and complex work yet. The mother, Dorothea, (in one of our favorite performances by Annette Benning), struggles to raise her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) without a father in his life.
“20th Century Women” is about so many things, but one aspect it shares with his other films is the subject of parenting (a topic close to our hearts). Like the caption on one of his posters for Thumbsucker, “How can I be the parent when I’m the kid?” Dorothea is mystified by her teenage son and maybe even by adolescence itself. Her own problems are not hidden from Jamie, and at times he seems to be the mature one in the relationship.
In the tradition of the “Slow Movement,” you could say Mike is a “Slow” filmmaker, and we mean this in the best way. His work represents a lifetime of experience and thoughtful hard work. We work in an industry that doesn’t always value the investment of time, actual time, hours and hours of living your film. Mike’s films can’t be cranked out or rushed. They are years in the making. They’re grown, not manufactured.
We look forward to seeing what Mike does next—his films are worth waiting for.