There’s something creepy yet disarmingly human about Peter O’Toole’s ageing lothario in Venus; a once beautiful actor still working sporadically, his cadaverous features best-suited to the literal portrayal of corpses, clinging to the promise of beauty and pleasure despite the ultimate futility of the chase.
Newcomer Jodie Whittaker (in a star-making performance) becomes the object of his affection, tutelage and reverence when she arrives in London to nurse his best friend (Leslie Phillips). While Phillips is appalled at the girl’s inability to cook anything other than pot noodle while drinking his best scotch, Maurice is intoxicated by her spirit and beauty and decides to take her under his wing.
While O’Toole’s performance has won all the plaudits (and the Oscar nomination), it is the portrait of reckless, innocent and impetuous youth that has stayed with me – the best portrayal of what it means to be young I have seen in a long time. Whittaker’s Jessie has all the confidence and bravado one gets launching in to the world with the training wheels off but not enough self-knowledge to protect her from the dangers within it.