This biopic about the life of Hollywood starlet Gloria Grahame is an exploration of the importance of love, kindness and intimacy in our daily associations and relationships. Annette Bening plays Grahame in the film, while Jamie Bell plays her younger lover Peter Turner.
Bening gives an honest and genuine portrayal of a woman who is dying and, having seen and done it all, comes back to the place she once truly experienced love, Liverpool, to live with her younger lover and his family in his mother’s house.
The film is deceptively simple, giving us a picture of Grahame’s final days through flashbacks from Grahame herself and Bell. You see while watching the film how easy it is to let a couple of unsaid words cause tension and confusion where it could be avoided.
Bening also gives us a realistic vulnerability and desperation, where you see a woman who’s considered to be one of the most beautiful in Hollywood struggle with not being beautiful while sick.
It’s a heartbreaking combination of thinly-veiled insecurities and desperation to attempt to regain control of a body that seems to be a law unto itself due to its battle with cancer.
The film’s shot mostly on set, and it has very realistic portrayals of New York, even though the production didn’t shoot much in the city that never sleeps.
It’s score is also captivating. I was reduced to tears towards the end when the Mamas and Papas’ California Dreaming comes on when Bell’s character Turner escorts Grahame to the car that will be taking her to her death in New York.
The film also attempts to give the viewer the chance to peak into the controversies and strained relationships in Grahame’s life -with her children and the rest of her family.
As a viewer, you cannot help but empathise with Bell’s character; a young man who’s riddled with uncertainty and has to ultimately watch a woman he’s once loved wither away.
The relationship between Grahame and Bella Turner (Peter’s mother) played by Julie Walters, is portrayed as one of sisterhood and genuine love - even if it’s quite awkward in the beginning. It made me wonder what the relationship between the women was like in real life.
It’s a fairly straightforward film that’s quite innocent and charming. While it won’t tell you everything you need to know about her, it gives you just enough clues to make you want to go find out more about just who Gloria Grahame was.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool opens in cinemas today.