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Shirley Valentine

Year: 1989
Studio: Paramount
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Producer: Lewis Gilbert
Writer: Willy Russell
Cast: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Joanna Lumley

How this movie made such an impression on a boy in his early twenties I don't know. Without going too much into my frame of mind at the time, I found myself feeling the same kind of 'is this all there is to life' that I saw in Collins' portrayal as the titular heroine.

And nowhere did it resonate with me more deeply than the arc of her character, delivered faultlessly in two beautiful lines. When imagining doing something scary and crazy like travelling to Greece, she gives the scolding inner voice life by saying 'you're 42, not 22.' Then later, when her spirit has awakened to the possibilities of the world, she doesn't hesitate to be excited about life because she's 'only 42'.

Talking to the wall and the other comic flourishes are the hook that made the play on which the film is based iconic, but despite the sugary comic sheen, it talks about issues much deeper like ageing, fulfilling your potential and never losing your sense of adventure.

Collins is the plucky, irrepressible middle aged British housewife so bored with her existence that she talks to walls, her life so regimented that her husband throws a fit when dinner isn't the usual Thursday dinner of chips, eggs and steak.

Seeing greener pastures on every other side of her - to the point of a misguided belief that the stately woman (Lumley) she used to go to school with is a glamourous flight attendant when the willowy lady is actually an expensive escort - Shirley has no idea what to do to escape.

A whim wins out when she decides to go to Greece with a friend, and when the friend promptly dumps her Shirley is left to fend for herself in a foreign land, finding that her soul takes flight as she gets a job, takes a lover (Conti) and finds herself.

Written by Willy Russell of Educating Rita fame.

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