Kitchen sink meets Hollywood glamour in a soulful, real-life account of the relationship between then-55-year-old Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and 26-year-old actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) in the late ’70s. The passion project of James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, its central love affair feels almost like a corrective to 007’s endless age-inappropriate flings: here it’s Grahame who wows her much younger neighbour with the perfume of stardom that lingers even years later in the modest surrounds of Primrose Hill. ‘Has anyone ever told you you look like Lauren Bacall when you smoke?’ he teases. ‘Yeah,’ she shoots back. ‘Humphrey Bogart.’
Bogey namedrops aside, their relationship swiftly transcends these gaps in age and status. Playing out in smoky pubs and dates to the pictures, and briskly handled by director Paul McGuigan, it’s never less than believable, thanks mainly to two leads on sparkling form. Bell is terrific as the caring but easily bruised Turner, but it’s Bening who steals the show as an icon fallen on harder times. Brittle and insecure, yet also steely and magnetic, it’s a performance full of nuance. It also bears out the recollections of another director – Stephen Frears – of his first encounter with the actress for ‘The Grifters’ in 1991. ‘I looked at Annette and thought: My God, Gloria Grahame!’ he recalled. He was more right than he knew.