Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.
In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
I FINALLY got to catch stars don't die in Liverpool and what an emotionally fuelled story it was.
I was swept up in a world dedicated to Gloria Graham's from the first moment we experience her getting ready for a show. Meticulous details are sewn into this crucial and telling sequence like the milk she drinks before a show the objects she cherishes and a music shift that happens when she puts her cigarette into the cradle of an ash tray - this can only be a cue for one thing. I knew nothing about Gloria Grahame before this film but minutes in and the second the camera made a foreshadowing focus on that cigarette; I knew this would be a story about how an actresses glamour and vitality would be punctuated by cancer.
Stars don't die in Liverpool isn't afraid to take its own make up off at points as the story takes sharp transitions between the glossed romance of nostalgia and the stark raw light of the present day. The story follows real life romance between a Liverpudlian actor (Jaime Bell) and the much older Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame as portrayed by Annette Benning. The film is based upon a memoir written my Peter Turner and the story is constantly dipping back into the past as the last days of the terminally ill actress are retold. There was a fascinating use of transitions as the past and present would be stitched together by peter walking through a doorway in the present day and arriving on the other side in a memory. Usually this shift in chronology would be triggered by a reminder of an event in the past and Peter would be thrust back into this moment. The story looks at moments when the couple meet and celebrates the unique pairing of the two. The film was more implicit in its focus on the significant age gap as it respected the relationship enough not to let it become a defining feature. Although I found some of the scenes emotionally challenging there where definitely joyous moments to be savoured. When the couple first meet in their shared house Gloria invites Peter in for a drink and they dance exuberantly around Gloria's flat in a beautifully uninhibited way.
If the source material is correct then I shall take all my hats off to Peter's family for being such heroes in the story. I think one of the true hero's of the tale is Peter's mother, portrayed by Julie Walters who delivered on her usual stunt of being completely and utterly perfect. You could feel maternal warmth emanating off her every line as if she was giving it to you personally. Walter always gives the most richly sincere performances and in this film it made for some truly poignant moments.
this film is a very worthy watch and one of its main delights is how Benning and Bell manage to achieve a rare quality; making a unique onscreen relationship feel real, nuanced and captivating.
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