Kind of a biopic, but because Gloria Grahame didn’t have a huge screen presence in her later years, Annette Bening doesn’t have to worry about an accurate impersonation of the actress, but can instead work on capturing the essence of an ageing star whose success has waned and who is frightened of growing old.
Based on memoirs of Peter Turner, we see a slice of Grahame’s last years and her relationship with the much younger Turner (Jamie Bell), who meet when they share the same actor’s digs when she is performing in stage plays around England. We see their time together through a series of beautifully managed flashback sequences, intermingled with her arrival at the Turner family home when she falls seriously ill. The family (Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham) welcome her back as she desperately seeks some semblance of family and love in her last days.
It’s a story that had the potential to be mawkish or cringe-inducing, but two excellent performances from Bening and Bell ensure that it is completely believable and intimate. Annette Bening is beautiful anyway but the way Jamie Bell looks at her throughout their scenes would make anyone feel 20 years younger.