May to December romances may not be original movie fodder, but Roger Michell’s delightful Venus manages to sidestep the conventional issues for something deeply poignant, utterly charming and frequently very funny.
The focus of the film is the relationship between two ageing actors, Ian (Leslie Phillips) and Maurice (Peter O’Toole). Now in their 70s, set in their ways and bemoaning their careers — generally as corpses in TV medical dramas — they bide their time drinking, discussing the theatre and, particularly in Ian’s case, worrying about their frailties and impending death. Ian agrees to let his niece’s daughter come and stay in his north London flat as his carer. He’s expecting a cook in the kitchen, a cleaner in the lounge and a nursemaid in the bedroom.
With Michell’s sensitive direction, Hanif Kureishi’s wonderful screenplay and Peter O’Toole’s possibly career-topping performance, Venus is a delight. Jodie Whittaker proves herself a great discovery, her natural performance bouncing brilliantly off O’Toole’s bright-eyed mischief. A shame then that Phillips is a little disappointing as he seems to be looking for the arch comedy of every moment while the others let the wit bubble through, but that’s small potatoes indeed.Potentially as distasteful as they come but in execution — and with O’Toole sparkling — a simple, and simply lovely, tale.