One of the most overlooked, exquisitely sensitive films of 2017 somehow slipped past all attention to awards. Based on a true story – published by Peter Turner in 1986 – of a late in life affair between screen icon Gloria Grahame and young actor Peter Turner – this film is radiantly beautiful. The screenplay adaptation is by Matt Greenhalgh and the sensitive direction is the work of Paul McGuigan.
The story covers the years 1979 – 1981. In 1979 Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) is in England starring on stage in The Glass Menagerie and flirts with young actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), a bisexual young actor who falls under the spell of the femme fatale and despite the significant age difference they fall in love and begin and affair that is real, tender, and meaningful to both. As their mismatched romance waxes and wanes over time, events conspire to keep them in each other's lives even when it proves difficult and demanding. Ultimately, they find that they must each come to terms with whatever fate they face in the future whether they are together or apart. Grahame has breast cancer, a fact she conceals from Peter, and as she becomes close to Peter’s family – mother Bella (Julie Walters), father Joe SR (Kenneth Cranham), and brother Joe Jr. (Stephen Graham) – she reveals her illness. On a trip to Los Angeles Gloria and Peter live together in Gloria’s house trailer by the Pacific ocean, and are visited by Gloria’s mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and sister Joy (Frances Barber) before they return to Peter’s home in Liverpool. Gloria grows weaker and ultimately decides to return to her American physician for chemotherapy, escorted by one of her real sons Tim (Tom Brittney) from one of her four marriages, leaving Peter with love and concern that he care for his own family. The story is an affectionate, moving, and wryly humorous memoir of friendship, love, and stardom.
Oscar worthy performances by Bening, Bell, Walters and the entire cast make this film luminous – one that needs to be seen more than once to fully appreciate all the fine qualities – acting, photography, musical score, and direction. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 18