Shirley Valentine

1989, 108 Minutes
Great Britain
Starring: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, and Joanna Lumley

This film satisfies my inner-Brit in a way only such films as "Educating Rita" and "Breaking Glass" have before. I can watch it again and again, at least once a year on a lovely rainy day. It also could be considered to be right up there with the best "chick movies" ever. But, like "Educating Rita," the main character's real romance isn't with some dashing leading man, it's with herself.

Set in Liverpool and later in Greece, Shirley Valentine is a middle-aged woman stuck in a rut of a marriage to a seemingly loveless man. Her children have grown and left the nest and just don't seem to care about or appreciate her. All she has to look forward to is the glass of wine or two she indulges in whilst making supper for her man--and talking to the walls. Because no one else will listen, she tells the walls about how things used to be when she was young, before she lost all sense of self and purpose.

An opportunity arises for her to go on holiday to Greece with a girlfriend, and although her husband absolutely forbids it she's off anyway, enjoying a careless fling with a local boat captain (the wonderful British actor Tom Conti playing Greek here) who has what must be the best pick-up line in movie history.

The greatest thing is she decides this is the life for her and she decides to stay. And why not? How many times have we taken a holiday to someplace wonderful and then faced the shattering letdown of coming back to nothing special? She's got the warm sun, a job to sustain her, and the Mediterranean all day. Other people live there, why not her too?

Of course, everyone back home goes nuts at this; this middle-aged wife and mother, prancing around on a Greek island like a madwoman. What's the matter with her! She's got to come back and make supper for her man, she's got to bend to the opinions of everyone around her who are horrified at the idea of a woman choosing to live free and leaving the sad old world behind. Her freedom represents something to fear, rather than to celebrate.

Will she take her husband back and go home? This film is a comedy, but it's also very touching and maybe hard-hitting to women who find themselves in similar predicaments. Could changing your life and finding yourself again be this simple? The answer is frightening: what's holding you back?


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