This gently affecting romantic drama doesn't offer a particularly profound experience, but is ably is carried along by a strong cast doing fine work against a vibrant colour palette.
Jamie Bell (still probably best known for playing Billy Elliot as a kid) stars as British actor Peter Turner, upon whose this memoir this film was based. A young performer treading the boards in the late 1970s, he meets Golden Age Hollywood icon Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening) and they bond over their shared theatrical sensibilities and become lovers.
Two years later, long after having parted ways, Grahame reconnects with Turner in his hometown of Liverpool as her health is failing due to resurgent cancer. Turner's family takes Grahame into their home, where his mother Bella (Julie Walters) dotes on the star as Peter reflects on their affair.
The film elegantly jumps between the height of their passions and the lows of Grahame's illness, weaving a nostalgic true story of lost romance and faded dreams.
Bell delivers one of his most mature performances here, but the film really belongs to Bening, who finds a perfect outlet for her old Hollywood appeal. Grahame was most famous for femme fatale roles in film noir movies, which aligns nicely with the characters Bening played so well in movies like The Grifters (1990) and Bugsy (1991), making her casting an undeniably appealing proposition.
Bening never resorts to "ageing diva" cliches in her rendition of Grahame, whom she infuses with vitality and grace.
Director Paul McGuigan enhances the film with a stylised, hazy look that further strengthens the film's nostalgic glow, and it'll leave you feeling warm inside. He even manages to make the English winter seem romantic.
Annette Bening, Jamie Bell
A nostalgiac and romantic trip.