Humorist Sam Levinson has lamented: "When I was a kid, they told me to do what my parents wanted. When I became a parent, they told me to do what my kids wanted. When do I get to do what I want?"
Shirley Valentine is about a 45-year-old Liverpool matron who decides it's finally time to do what she wants. Trapped in a humdrum existence, Shirley Valentine (Pauline Collins) wonders when she lost her hopeful, youthful self. Isolated and lonely, she talks to the wall in her kitchen. There is no support from her demanding husband (Bernard Hill), her snooty neighbor (Julia McKenzie), or her self-absorbed grown children (Tracie Bennett and Gareth Jefferson).
Then a divorced friend (Alison Steadman) wins a two-week vacation to Greece in a magazine contest and asks Shirley to accompany her. After much soul-searching, Shirley leaves her husband behind and heads off for the sun-drenched islands. Although she has a romantic rendezvous with a Greek tavern owner (Tom Conti), the real surprise of the trip is her inward journey toward self-renewal.
Producer and director Lewis Gilbert has done a marvelous job opening up Willy Russell's stage hit. But the major triumph of this warm, witty, and buoyant comedy is Pauline Collins's depiction of Shirley Valentine. You might remember her performance as Sarah, the high spirited parlor maid in television's "Upstairs, Downstairs."
Shirley Valentine's irrepressible spunk will win you over whether she's squaring off against the master of the house, responding to her daughter's put-downs, experiencing the dizziness of sex, or telling off some boorish British tourists. And in the end, you will cheer Shirley Valentine as she learns to love just being herself.