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Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool DVD review - Jamie Bell and Annette Bening shine on screen

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A journey of pain, love and loss, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is not an unusual story, but one of human emotion that pervades all walks of life, even those more accustomed to the red carpet.

Told in almost fragmented form, the blossoming romance between Academy Award winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) is one of great complexity, leaving you just as conflicted as they are from scene to scene. Depicting the relationship of two stage actors, the story is told in a style halfway between film and theatre, with one scene flowing effortlessly to the next regardless of differences in time or space. With this and the perfectly fitting soundtrack, you’re transported to 1970s Liverpool and experience the relationship grow alongside Gloria and Peter rather than just watching from afar. The soundtrack not only transports you through time but also graces the film with one of the most contagiously fun dance scenes of 2017, one that is reminiscent of Bell’s earlier work.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the pair’s notable age gap, raising questions of power and gender within their relationship. Although the story captures a relatively mundane period of Gloria’s life, that of after all the glitz and glamour, the dynamic between the her and Peter is where the intrigue lies. Gloria commands attention, so much so that her presence is both alluring and artificial, whereas Peter has an emotional vulnerability to him that increasingly shines as his faux-confidence subsides. The combination of these opposing personalities, captured through intimate camera work, results in a unique and raw onscreen chemistry.

Whilst the blossoming age-gap relationship is at the centre of the narrative, it is not at the forefront of the film, rather it is carried by the powerhouse performances that convey it. Bell and Bening shine in their roles and convey incredible depth and emotion with every look. The deep connection between the pair is tangible, as is any tension. Through their subtle but powerful body language, they call you to delve into their minds and explore every shot; much more is said than what would be found in the script, and that is where the film’s layers begin to develop. Each scene simultaneously peels back a layer and adds another, constantly shifting from an intimate, warm tone, to a cold, distant one – this contrast matching that of Liverpool and Hollywood.

The film draws you in with its honesty but despite these intimate insights into the pair’s relationship, a true view of Gloria Grahame is never grasped. Her flirtatious demeanour, Hollywood lifestyle, and complicated past just a few elements that make up her persona. And that’s exactly what Gloria is in this film – a performer through and through. An idea of her true self only really surfacing in the film’s final act; one of a woman ground down to a humble vulnerability.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is available on DVD/Blu-ray anf for digital download now.

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