Parents' Guide to

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Brief nudity, language in drama based on real-life romance.

Movie R 2017 105 minutes
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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.

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