Shirley Valentine (1989)

Genres - Comedy Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Aug 30, 1989 (USA)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - UK, USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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The fact that Pauline Collins received an Oscar nomination for her work in Shirley Valentine may be more an indication of a weak 1989 field than her having turned in a virtuoso performance. In fact, the talking-to-the-viewer format, fairly natural as a stage device, is at times almost uncomfortable, especially with how heavily director Lewis Gilbert relies on it. Still, that this little-seen film adaptation of Willy Russell's beloved play could generate such acclaim was a sturdy approbation of Collins' intimate, confessional take on the title character, backed by a script of internal and external journeys that lead her to greater self-understanding and satisfaction. What makes it such a brave, interesting (albeit not commercially viable) work is that it focuses on the intangible dismays of a decidedly middle-aged, decidedly average woman. Watching her cavort in Grecian seas with half-naked men half her age is a delight best appreciated by viewers in similar need of reawakening, but one that translates to viewers of all ages and romantic histories. The overall impression of Shirley Valentine is of a fond character study astutely realized by Collins and Gilbert, but one that may be more at home in Russell's original domain nonetheless.