It's difficult to pull off May-December romances in movies, mainly because they're so creepy. As often as not, the movie doesn't even acknowledge the age difference, casting men in their fifties opposite girls in their twenties, with nothing in mind but the potential box office returns. If the movie does acknowledge the gap, it's usually to make some kind of wry statement, most famously in Nabokov's Lolita, adapted for the screen twice, by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 and Adrian Lyne in 1997.
The new movie Venus miraculously manages a deft balance of all this, and on top of it, the age difference is a staggering fifty years, between19 year-old Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) and 70-something Maurice (Peter O'Toole). Of course, this is no traditional romance, but more of an odd, tender friendship, not unlike that of Lost in Translation (2003).
A working London actor busy with plays and television, Maurice loves to spend time with his old colleague Ian (Leslie Phillips). Their dryly hilarious bickering sets the tone for the rest of the film. Ian anticipates a visit from his grand-niece, and expects that she will begin caring for his worldly needs, such as cooking and cleaning. Of course, the girl that actually arrives is more of a modern teenager, Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), with modern teenage ennui, cynicism and selfishness. While these qualities drive Ian into a fit of pique, they actually intrigue the more playful Maurice. He slowly engages her in conversation, and his way of bluntly telling the truth (there's no point in lying at his age) does not repulse her. Later, he impulsively offers to buy her a drink, and she discovers that, as an actor, he's "a little bit" famous.