Films

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool review – a stranger-than-fiction love story

A tremendous central duo breathe life into Paul McGuigan’s endearing retelling of the real-life romance between a struggling young actor and Oscar-winner Gloria Grahame

There is a tremendous warmth and tenderness to this sweet, sad love story starring Annette Bening and Jamie Bell – a stranger-than-fiction true romance that unfolds in Los Angeles, New York, London and Liverpool – and there is a bittersweet rightness in a new song from Elvis Costello over the closing credits: You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way. Director Paul McGuigan finds the balance between pathos and humour, working from Matt Greenhalgh’s adaptation of a memoir by the actor and writer Peter Turner.

As an unknown, struggling young actor in the late 70s, Turner met and fell in love with Gloria Grahame, the legendary Hollywood star and Oscar-winner who, incredibly, was living in the same north London boarding house. She was in the endgame of her career yet maintaining a never-say-die optimism, looking for stage work in Britain and suppressing worries about her health. Then, some time after their affair ended, Turner received a phone call: Grahame had collapsed in her dressing room while on tour in the UK, and had asked to come and stay with Peter and his family in Liverpool, convinced that she could recover there.

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