Shirley Valentine [1989]

As movie midlife crises go, Shirley Valentine's is a doozy. A bored Northern England housewife, wondering what her life is about and how to navigate around her clueless husband, Shirley would be at her wits' end--except that she knows how to dream big. As played by the incomparable Pauline Collins (who created the role on Broadway, and won a Tony for it), Shirley embraces not only her own constricted life, but the dreams of the big, beautiful world beyond it. Directed by Lewis Gilbert (Educating Rita), Shirley Valentine is an anthem to the freedom of the soul--with a generous dose of salt of the earth. As she assesses her life, Shirley's humor never fails her: "I think sex is like supermarkets, you know, overrated. Just a lot of pushing and shoving and you still come out with very little at the end." Yet Collins' Shirley gets as much out of defending her right to her dream (a sunny holiday in Greece) as she does realizing it, and that makes for much of the glow of the film. For while Shirley has a cinematic romance on her vacation (Tom Conti plays the dreamboat), the affair is more of a metaphor for what Shirley insists on having in her real daily life. Watch for Joanna Lumley in a delicious cameo, pre-Ab Fab. And embrace this Valentine, and share it with those you love, all year round. --A.T. Hurley Stills from Shirley Valentine (click for larger image)

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