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.

“>WATCH a preview of Venus

“>CHECK theaters and dates

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. Not your usual love story