Venus Roger Michell

There are occasionally movies that are part of an annoying subgenre but manage to transcend its limitations through style and verve. So it is with Venus, which though part of a patronising codger-meets-youngster life-affirmation genus manages to distract you from the clichés.

The film centres on Maurice (Peter O’Toole), an aging, once prominent actor who pals around with a couple of other elderly artistes, one of whom complains about his great niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who’s come to live with him in the hopes of becoming a model. Maurice immediately takes a shine to the youngster, beguiled by her beauty as much as her company. And while Jessie is about as unromantic as a person can get she knows nobody else in London and is moved by his kindness.

The Harold and Maude-ish story is a little beneath writer Hanif Kureshi, who in the ’80s wrote tart, corrosive scripts that make this look like a creampuff. Still, Kureshi has an ear for snappy dialogue and director Roger Michell manages to make the plot seem like the first time you’ve seen it. The cast also rises to the occasion, with O’Toole shining as the extroverted Maurice, while Whittaker gives her sullen teenager nuance and dimensions.

There are times when the lines get a little arch and Maurice’s bullet-proof smile seems a little much but for the most part, this is a witty and satisfying timewaster with a pair of performers at the top of their forms, and Vanessa Redgrave in an indelible scene as the protag’s indulgent ex-wife. It’s not genius but it’s guaranteed entertainment that’s worth the price of admission. (Alliance Atlantis)