Venus



Documentary (2016)
80mins Den/Nor

Director: Mette Carla Albrechtsen, Lea Glob
Writer(s): Mette Carla Albrechtsen, Lea Glob
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland



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LondonNet Film
Venus

Peter O'Toole delivers one of the finest performances of his career, as a silver-tongued thesp, in Roger Michell's elegiac coming of old age story...

Peter O'Toole as Maurice with Jodie Whittaker as Jessie in Roger Michell's VENUS. Photo Credit: NICOLA DOVE / EYEBOXAny other year, he would unquestionably be collecting his first Academy Award as Best Actor for this endearing portrayal of a flirtatious septuagenarian with an insatiable hunger for the ladies. Unfortunately, Forest Whitaker already has his mitts on the statuette - more's the pity, because O'Toole's work here is astonishing, untouched by mawkish sentiment.

Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Mother) treats the film's pivotal May to December romance between O'Toole's charismatic actor and a 19-year-old wannabe model with tenderness and wit. The complex and tempestuous relationship between these two seemingly mismatched characters invigorates a man who fears his life is drawing to an inglorious close, and inspires a young woman to believe in herself.

When we first meet Maurice (O'Toole), he is comparing prescription medicines with his oldest chum and fellow actor Ian (Leslie Phillips) during their regular catch-up at the local breakfast cafe. Ian reveals that his grandniece is coming to stay with him in London. "I hope she can do a rocket salad... or something interesting with fish," he remarks dryly.

The girl, Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), turns out to be no help whatsoever - truculent and domestically inept, she spends her days poring over beauty magazines, clamouring for an escape from Ian's fusty Kentish Town apartment. The old timer is soon at his wit's end. "It's barely been 24 hours and already I'm screaming for euthanasia!" he tells Maurice melodramatically.

Peter O'Toole as Maurice with Jodie Whittaker as Jessie in Roger Michell's VENUS. Photo Credit: NICOLA DOVE / EYEBOXWhen Ian is unable to accompany Maurice to the Royal Court Theatre, he takes Jessie instead, and together, they brave the latest shocking play to hit the capital. At first, Jessie exploits the older man's infatuation - cajoling Maurice into accompanying her on a shopping trip to Oxford Street. However, as the bond deepens, Jessie discovers a burgeoning affection for her seventy-something protector, who christens her Venus in honour of Diego Velazquez's painting.

Distinguished by O'Toole's tour-de-force portrayal of an aging cad, Venus is a wryly amusing and extremely affecting portrait of a man reborn, whose adoration of a girl young enough to be his granddaughter is both pathetic and touching.

Maurice's pursuit of Jessie might seem a tad unsavoury were it not for Whittaker's scintillating performance as the sexually beguiling teen and Kureishi's elegant writing. His screenplay provides an embarrassment of sharp dialogue, especially in the lively exchanges between Maurice and Ian.

The emotional bond between the codgers is touching, reaching an incredibly moving crescendo as they visit the actor's church in Covent Garden and find themselves dancing together to the music of a string quartet. Vanessa Redgrave is excellent too as Maurice's wife, whom he abandoned (along with their young children) for a co-star many years ago.

Venus is British filmmaking at its very best.

- Sophie Abell


London Cinemas

From Friday 9th June
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From Friday 16th June
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Rest of UK and Irish Cinemas

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From Friday 16th June
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