‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ delivers a flawed, but poignant romance


Jamie Bell and Annette Bening star in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.” Sony Classics Website Photo.

Though the film does not deliver anything noteworthy in terms of cinematic value, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” brings a heartfelt and emotional romance to the big screen.

Recently featured at The Pageant in Chico, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” follows the true story of Academy Award winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) during the final years of her life. Despite her struggle to maintain a career in cinema, Grahame finds happiness when she falls in love with a young man, named Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). However, the future of their relationship seems uncertain when Grahame is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Though this film, directed by Paul McGuigan, is nothing special compared to its contemporaries, like Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” or Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name,” it is a very well-made film with a sincere romantic story.

The overall narrative of the film flowed very well and did not drag. The use of flashbacks was a clever method to transition between scenes from the past and the present. The flashbacks never felt overused and the transitions would flow very well from scene to scene.

One problem I had with “Call Me by Your Name” was that the plot dragged the rising action of the film, whereas in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” the pacing of the film flowed well and got to the climax without dragging the rest of the film.

The performances of Annette Bening and Jamie Bell were excellent. The chemistry between Bell and Bening created an entertaining and emotionally-driven onscreen couple that could captivate an audience.

Bening’s portrayal of Gloria Grahame encapsulated the emotional woes of finding love at an older age, maintaining an acting career in theater and cinema, and coping with a cancer diagnosis. The emotional demeanor and dialogue delivery made Bening’s character a standout in the film.

Bell’s performance as Peter Turner was also excellent. His portrayal of Turner was very raw, energetic and created a very well-rounded character that an audience could empathize with.

Though this film has a genuine love story, it delivers nothing new in terms of production, or cinematic value in general. “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” is another run-of-the-mill romance with decently strong performances from Bening and Bell.

The film did have some emotional scenes that were tear-jerkers and caused a few sniffles in the audience. However, there were other scenes where the tone felt sappy with the over dramatic lighting and music, therefore undermining the emotional significance of the scene.

“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” does have its flaws and is in no way a perfect film. However, its emotionally-evoking performances from Annette Bening and Jamie Bell make up for its flaws and creates a decent romance for a night in.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.