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Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

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In modern cinema we see hundreds of love stories, some which stick with us, and some which don’t. And it’s not often we see a love story in cinema that is as honest, moving and original as this one.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool really is a love story that is fresh, original, and totally unique to the romance genre. But this film isn’t exactly the brainchild of a fiction writer. It’s a real life story, and someone really lived it.

Based on the memoir written by Peter Turner of the same name, this touching tale tells the story the unlikely pairing of a young actor and a Hollywood legend who meet in Liverpool and instantly click.

Hollywood star Gloria Grahame is a total stranger Turner, unaware of her Hollywood fame when they meet in the building where they are both living, and this is what makes their relationship so genuine. Despite a big age gap, the two are instantly infatuated with each other, dancing together, attending plays, going to the pub. It really is love at first sight. However, after some time apart, Gloria re-enters Peter’s life when she falls ill and returns to Liverpool to stay with Peter and his family.

Unbeknownst to Turner, Grahame was not only a successful actress in the 40s and 50s, but she was also an Oscar winner. The fact that Turner was totally to oblivious to Grahame’s success makes their love so innocent, pure and sincere. Gloria is eccentric, fun loving and fresh, despite being significantly older than Peter.

Played exquisitely by the wonderful Annette Bening, the life and soul of the quirky Gloria is captured honestly and on a deeply personal level. And the chemistry that existed between these two could not have been brought to life so authentically were it not for the stunning performance by Jamie Bell.

Bell brings a genuine wide-eyed quality to his portrayal of Peter, showing audiences the real reasons why Peter Turner was so captivated by Gloria from the moment he met her.

And while both lead actors excel in their roles, the real tool for emotional response has been crafted through the narrative structure. A joint effort of director Paul McGuigan and screenplay writer Matt Greenhalgh, we aren’t told Peter and Gloria’s story in a linear structure. Glimpses of their time together are revealed bit by bit, jumping between past and present where we see Gloria and Peter in their prime, then fastforwarding to Gloria’s fragile state.

There are times in the narrative when Peter will literally step through a door which transports him from L.A. back to Liverpool again. One scene is also shown twice from each perspective which is crucial to understanding why the relationship was met with a life changing obstacle and just how deeply the couple loves each other.

Featuring a gorgeous new song from Elvis Costello, ‘You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way’, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool really is original in every way.

A collective effort from McGuigan, Bening, Bell, Greenhalgh and Turner has created a love story so raw and so moving that you will be fighting back the tears. It’s moving, poignant and heartbreaking for all the right reasons – a true masterpiece.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is out now, distributed through Lionsgate.

 

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