Movie review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Venus Movie Poster Image
Superb acting on life's journey; not for kids.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Easily misconstrued. Both Maurice and Jessie come full circle in appreciating life's lessons, but that could easily be misinterpreted by young viewers. Very strong ties between older friends.


Young woman pinches older man, slaps him, elbows him away. Altercation between young man and old one; the old man swings at the younger one with a paddle, but it's the older man who's pushed and falls. Two older men slap each other with rolled newspapers. Discussion of forced abortion. Close-up of man's face during prostate exam.


Older man kisses young woman's neck, touches her breasts, watches her bathe. She uses her body for favors. She puts her hand between her legs and teases the old man and shows him her breasts in attempts to wake him up. She also appears semi-nude as model in art class.


Lots of profanity. "I want to see your c--t." "F--k," "Christ," "Jesus," "professor of pu--y," etc.


British beverages, food, clubs, clothing store. Jessie is fairly materialistic.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Constant drinking and smoking by main characters. Older men rely on pills to help throughout the day; younger woman has many beers and gets drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this poignant British drama is for older adults and will hold little appeal for teens or even young adults. The themes are mature and require an adult perspective to appreciate it. As far as content goes, well, that's pretty mature, too. An elderly man croons lasciviously at a much younger woman who trades sexual favors for material gains, allowing him to kiss her neck, feel her breasts, and talk dirty to her. There's nonstop drinking, pill popping, semi-nudity, ubiquitous profanity ("c--t," "f--k"), and a painful discussion about the fact that the young woman was coerced by her mother into having an abortion. There's also a brief, violent fight scene.

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What's the story?

Aging thespian Maurice (Peter O'Toole) is a lascivious, cantankerous, elderly Englishman who develops a complicated relationship with the grand-niece of old friend/fellow actor Ian (Leslie Phillips). Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) is 19 years old, provincial, and, at least initially, rude and selfish. Maurice waffles between wanting to expose her to culture and satisfying the awakening sexual feelings he has for her. After a trip to the National Gallery -- where they see Diego Velazquez's painting Venus at Her Mirror, Maurice calls Jessie his Venus and explains that the female body is the ultimate desire for men. Jessie uses their growing intimacy for power and material items -- but his growing admiration begins to change her character, too. Their relationship changes, but slowly, with two steps forward and one step back.

Is it any good?

Venus is a small-scale English production that's full of both reflective moments and witty, rapid-fire dialogue about mortality, the old days, and life's perpetual ambitions. O'Toole gives a powerful performance, his character gripped by the realization that his life is in its final chapter. Ultimately, Jessie makes some important positive changes in her life, her self-opinion, and her feelings about her older friend. But teens may not grasp the messages of self-discovery, and some may interpret it as "just" a movie about a dirty old man's fling with a youngster.

Venus has many merits and shouldn't be dismissed. It's a marvelous showcase for O'Toole, with stunning close-ups, perfect timing, and physical comedy that's as good as it gets. The depth, emotion, desperation, and affection of these moments are palpable and make it obvious that these performers are the masters of their craft. But no matter how much applause Venus earns for finally sexualizing an elderly character, having that sexuality focused on someone so young is awkward for any viewer, and even more so for teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Peter O'Toole's character, Maurice, and his interest in a much younger woman. Is the attraction based on proximity, his desire for one last hurrah, or real love? This is a far cry from how senior characters are typically portrayed in the media; is it difficult to see a man this age being sexual? What does Maurice offer Jessie to make her change how she feels about him -- and herself? What lessons does she teach him? Parents can also expand on the film's references to Shakespeare and Diego Velazquez's painting of Venus.

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