Shirley Valentine (1989): Lewis Gilbert’s British Serio-Comedy, Starring Pauline Collins in Oscar-Caliber Performance

Lewis Gilbert directed the British serio comedy Shirley Valentine from a screenplay by Willy Russell, based on his 1986 one-character play.

Grade: B (*** out of *****)

Shirley Valentine
ShirleyValentineMovie Poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Pauline Collins reprises the titular lead role as middle-aged housewife Shirley, which she had previously played on stage in London’s West End and on Broadway.

Oscar nominee Tom Conti plays Costas Dimitriades, the owner of a Greek tavern with whom she has a holiday romance.

Shirley Valentine is a 42-year-old Liverpudlian housewife whose life and initially enriching marriage has settled into a boring and unsatisfying rut, with few real friends and many more childhood dreams unaccomplished.

When her flamboyant friend Jane (Alison Steadman) wins a trip for two to Greece, Shirley accepts Jane’s invitation.

Though doubtful and unsure, she only goes because of unexpected encouragement from her neighbor Gillian (Julia McKenzie), who shows respect and emotional support of Shirley’s plans.

Also encouraging is former school enemy Marjorie Majors (Joanna Lumley), who reveals she had been envious of Shirley’s rebellious nature’ she has become a high class prostitute rather than a prestigious air hostess.

Though Warmly romantic, Shirley Valentine is uneven in narrative and too sweet and whimsical in tone.  The main reason to see it are the appealing performances by Collins (who’s truly irresistible) and Conti, playing sympathetic and relatable roles, especially for viewers of a certain age.

 

Credits:

Produced, directed by Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by Willy Russell, based on Shirley Valentine play by Willy Russell
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Cinematography Alan Hume
Edited by Lesley Walker
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Release date: August, 30 1989 (US)
Running time: 108 minutes
Box office $6.1 million (US)