Not your usual love story

What happens when someone falls in love but circumstances prevent him from doing anything about it? Like, say, a septuagenarian who falls for a 19-year-old?

You’re probably thinking: It gets creepy, fast. But when the old dude in question is a movie character played by the still oddly mesmerizing Peter O’Toole, and the script is by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette), the answer gets a lot more nuanced. In the improbable love story Venus (out 12/20), Maurice (O’Toole) is an elegant, elderly actor who becomes enamored of his buddy Ian’s rather uncouth grandniece, Jessie.

Maurice, a matinee idol in his day, is by turns dashing and pathetic, charming and irritating, wise and clueless. This isn’t Lolita: Maurice has enough propriety, generally, to know that he shouldn’t push his luck. And young Jessie, a wary, working-class hard-ass, isn’t shy about slapping him when he does. But at the same time, she’s fascinated and a little bit touched by the attentions of this goofy old chap.

This is a small, smart, poignant film about finding hope through the simple pleasure of appreciating — and being appreciated.

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Not your usual love story