Belfast Telegraph

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Stirring odd couple drama

 

By Damon Smith

Based on a true story, director Paul McGuigan charts a star-crossed romance across class and cultural divides, conducted in the shadow of terminal illness.

While the steady decline of one half of this contemporary Romeo and Juliet coughs and splutters in tear-stained cliches, the chemistry of Annette Bening and Jamie Bell illuminates every frame.

Bell delivers a compelling, nuanced performance that tugs the heartstrings.

Bening employs fizzing charm, naivety and mournful regret to portray screen siren Gloria Grahame, acutely aware of her power over the opposite sex.

In the summer of 1979, jobbing actor Peter Turner and Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame are neighbours in a London guesthouse. Peter follows her to America and meets her indomitable mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and jealous older sister (Frances Barber).

When Gloria receives a devastating diagnosis, she ends the affair to spare her beau greater pain. Two years later, she returns to the UK for a stage role and collapses in her dressing room.

In her hour of need, Gloria calls for Peter and he dutifully takes charge of her recuperation in the home he shares with his father Joe (Kenneth Cranham), mother Bella (Julie Walters) and brother Joe Jnr (Stephen Graham).

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool elegantly navigates the highs and lows of Peter and Gloria's turbulent relationship.

The smouldering sensuality of Bening and Bell is complemented by robust, earthy supporting performances.

Three stars

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