Venus is a film very far from the Hollywood sphere. Without a big budget to dominate film direction of the film, Roger Michell merely focuses on keeping the themes in tact while guiding the cast to determine how successful it will all be. His efforts are respectful because he restrains himself enough not to overdo the drama or hit viewers over the head with the messages, rather structuring the film in such a way that it progresses as naturally as possible.
Since Venus is a film where not too much happens, its simplicity is the most beautiful element of the screenplay and also the anchor which weighs down the pacing. The film is a very slow one which puts predominant focus on developing the relationship between Maurice Russell and Jesse while reminding viewers of Maurice's mortality as a cancer sufferer. The screenplay relies on the interactions to carry the feature, and it easily oscillates between moments of comedy and drama so that viewers don't know what to expect but can sit back and enjoy it. There is a lot more drama than comedy, and there are occasions where it can be a bit too subtle to keep viewers entertained in the face of such a slow pace, but patience is key to enjoy an experience like Venus. Cleverly enough, the impatience of the film's young character Jessie is something viewers must combat within themselves to enjoy Venus which may encourage them to examine their own nature. But as well as that, the dialogue doesn't depicts its older characters as humans of perfect etiquette. Despite having sophistication and charm in their language, there is also a tendency for them to swear. This makes them seem all the more honest, therefore reinforcing a sense of reality in the film. As well as that, it adds a good touch of humour to the film. Since Venus is a very gentle film, the moments of coarse language prove very funny when they jump out of a scene which has already established a subtle mood, taking viewers by surprise. Venus is not afraid to have a comedic edge. Because of the age of the characters, many elements which would often be considered drama end up rather funny such as a sequence depicting a conflict between Maurice and Ian which progressively becomes physical. All in all, viewers should be able to find a sympathetic appeal in the story without the sentimentality of it all laid on too heavily thanks to some light humour along the way.
There is a lot of focus on characters in Venus. The character Jessie is very much a valid representation of contemporary youth. She is a self-obsessed, spoiled and egotistical person who is as greedy as she is vulnerable. Venus offers us the chance to examine what contemporary youth has come to in such a way that we can agreeably be critical of the behaviour yet also question the lives of the individuals who behave in such a way. It is a two sided story with rich honesty, and it gives viewers a chance to engage in sympathizing for such a character and her insecurities.
Another major theme in Venus is the beauty of the human form. Since the title derives from the favourite painting of the protagonist, the 17th century Diego Velaquez piece Rokeby Venus, the inspiration for it becomes clear. The notion is explored in multiple ways within Venus, both through clear lines of dialogue and the general lifestyle of Maurice Russell. The way that Roger Michell works to convey these themes to the audience very much relies on the efforts of the cast, and he ensures that he gets nothing but the best out of them.
Peter O'Toole's leading performance is agreeably the best reason to see Venus. Having accomplished so much as a performer in many decades, Peter O'Toole pulls himself back to a significantly simpler role for Venus and his charms elevate it beyond the lesser elements of the simplicity while embracing the more positive ones. Peter O'Toole carries a profound sense of wisdom with him in the part and offers it as a gift to both the surrounding characters and the viewers lucky enough to witness the glory of his performance. But although he has a wise nature about him, Maurice has sporadic moments of incompetence which captures the nature of an elderly gentlemen with both sympathetic vulnerability and clever humour. Peter O'Toole's gracious passion for the role encourages him to adapt that humourous moments of the script as easily as the drama, delivering a performance which is likely to both have viewers feeling touched as well as laughing. Peter O'Toole's effort as Maurice Russell is a reminder of his undying talent and passion as an actor, combining his talents for comedy and drama with his age to create an ideal character for the man,
Jodie Whittaker also makes a beautiful effort. In the role of Jessie, Jodie Whittaker manages to easily capture the entitled and selfish nature of the character in an almost stereotypical fashion at the beginning before reaching out to audiences with her character development and causing them to reflect on their judgement. She doesn't go through any sudden transformation; she progressively develops the character over time at a steady rate through genuinely learning from Peter O'Toole in the same way Jessie learns from Maurice. Jodie Whittaker has the power to frustrate viewers one minute and reach out to them the next, and by the end she completely transforms the role.
Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave also lend their support to the film.
Venus is a film which capitalizes on Roger Michell's passion for subtlety, and though this means that some of its themes are not fully maximised and the pace of the film is slow, it also challenges the actors to truly give it their all which brings the best out of Peter O'Toole and everyone around him.
Beware of leaving your young friends alone with your charming old friends... their encounters may stir up magic! :)