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Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool centers on the real-life May-December romance between 50-something actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and a 20-something man (Jamie Bell). Their romance is a passionate one, so the movie has several sexual situations, though there's little graphic content beyond brief images of naked breasts. Characters drink and smoke, and there's some cursing (mostly "f--k," plus "goddamn" and "bloody") and a minor scuffle. Death by cancer is a primary topic.
What's the story?
In FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL, struggling 20-something actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) learns that his former flame, 50-something real-life Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) is ill. He takes her into his Liverpool home, learning that her illness is grave. Through flashbacks, he relives their rocky but passionate romance as he wrestles with how to best care for her.
Is it any good?
The acting is strong all around in this romantic drama, particularly by the two leads, but the storytelling meanders and fails to deeply involve viewers. Adapted from Turner's same-named memoir, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, it paints a fairly rosy picture of Turner and Grahame's relationship, omitting some of the unflattering, even disturbing details available in the public record. Unwilling to peer too deeply into the shadows of its characters, the film tries instead to involve viewers through a flashback structure that's designed to reveal the truth of their relationship in parallel to her decline and his tough decisions. But the ploy largely doesn't work. Its power is saved for the movie's final sequence, apparently to convince viewers whether the pair really loved each other. That sequence is well handled, but coming after the obligatory-feeling wander down memory lane that precedes it, its impact is muted.
The film can't help but suffer by comparison with two other recent, much more powerful love stories, Call Me by Your Name and The Big Sick, which absorbingly depict passionate love affairs. Skipping from significant moment to significant moment, Paul McGuigan's movie feels more like a biopic than a committed romance, leaving out the kind of haunting details that those other films marinated in, to delicious effect. Despite solid performances by Bell, Bening, and Julie Walters as Turner's mother, Film Stars doesn't let us in deeply enough to sweep us away.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how romances with a significant age difference are typically depicted on screen. Is it more or less common to see an older man with a younger woman than the younger man-older woman pairing in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool? Why do you think that is?
Were you surprised how devoted Peter was to Gloria? Do you think it was reciprocated?
How would you describe the two main characters? What were their defining traits? Would you consider them role models? Why or why not?
For kids who love romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.