Retrospective Film Review: Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love

There’s more than a touch of Steve Coogan’s avian-titled alter ego on display here, albeit a sadder, more morose version. He plays publishing tycoon Paul Raymond “The King of Soho”, who brought the first ‘Gentleman’s Club’ to the UK in 1958.

Publications such as Men Only, Razzle and Mayfair followed, which, in conjunction with Raymond’s savvy investment in property, made him a regular on UK rich lists. But Winterbottom’s film, like his other joint-Coogan endeavour The Trip, is more focussed on the minutiae of private and personal melancholia rather than the broader strokes of chronological narrative that might make for a more straightforward biopic. As in The Trip, we are shown more than we are told, and whilst this may mean we are kept at arms length from delving deeper into the characters, we do get a sense of Raymond’s relationship with his partner Jean (Anna Friel), a wife whose support and loyalty is inevitably tested upon incessant sharing of her husband with all the top totty around, and his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), entitled yet desperate for validation from her father, and where these familial intersections sit within a more permissive period of British culture.

The Look of Love, though funny and quietly sombre, isn’t quite possessed of the searingly compelling subject matter it thinks it is, but does make one look again at attitudes to sex, commitment, marriage, business and family, what they were then and what they have become now, and whether much, if anything has changed.

Words: Ash Verjee