The film begins in the final months of Gloria Grahame, a Holywood star of the 1940s and 1950s. As the story unfolds through a series of flashbacks and vignettes, we witness a love affair between the much older Gloria and Peter Turner, her young lover. Gloria is played by Annette Bening and James Bell (of Billy Elliott fame all those years ago), plays Peter. I will be upfront at this point and admit that I love Annette Bening, who plays the main role, due to her wonderful acting ability and range of emotions she can portray onscreen. And she does not disappoint in this film, in fact, she shines. Whether it is in the early days of romantic happy love and her girlish demeanour or in the last days where poignancy, sadness, and melancholy rule, she does it all brilliantly.
The love between her and Peter Turner, the young budding actor, is very palpable and so the age difference is not important in many ways. Love is love is love. We see how Gloria and Peter met, their early, fun-filled times in London and their lives together in the United States, their good moments and the not so good. Especially towards the end, the complexities and challenges of this relationship come to the forefront and we share their sadness, anger and poignancy of the situation. Both characters want to protect the other from what is bound to come.
Peter's family home in Liverpool, where Gloria spends some of her last days, provides a wonderful, authentic setting of the late 1970s, complete with large print wallpaper, chenille bedspreads (what are those? I can hear the Gen Y and Gen X ask) and appliances that seem somewhat ancient. The interactions between the couple and their respective families could not be more different. Turner's traditional, working-class family, portrayed by Julie Walters, as always brilliant in her role and Kenneth Cranham as the father, are always caring, dignified and welcoming. The same cannot be said for Grahame's family, especially her sister, hinting at long-term insecurities and dysfunction.
This is a film with all the full range of emotions - there is love, joy, pathos, fear and sadness too. But it is definitely a film worth seeing, the acting by all the main actors is excellent and films based on true stories always seem to have that little bit of extra something. An added bonus is the soundtrack, which adds wonderfully to the story, the characters and the setting.