Jeff Pope has a fondness for biopics, having contributed screenplays for Philomena, The Lost King and the excellent Stan & Ollie, all of which featured Steve Coogan. Lesser known are his collaborations with actress Sheridan Smith, who starred in Pope's productions of the true-crime limited series' Mrs Biggs, Moorside and Four Lives. Cilla marks a bit of a departure for the pair. This biopic of singer Cilla Black is a diverting romp with a soundtrack of forgotten hits and a bubbly performance from Smith in the title role.
1960’s Liverpool. Where the Fab Four and The Big Three share the stage at the Cavern Club, blue jeans are the latest must-have fashion item and unions between Protestants and Catholics or Everton and Liverpool supporters are strictly forbidden. Though her mother takes pride in the fact her daughter has been deemed suitable for office work, Cilla dreams of a singing career. Despite the cumbersome efforts of her self-appointed manager and a disastrous audition, Cilla finally cracks the big time through luck, determination and a little help from her friends, The Beatles.
Yet apart from Ringo, the rest of the band are minor players in this story. More significant to the narrative are ‘fifth Beatle’ George Martin and Brian Epstein, whose personal struggles add some gravitas to a film that rarely delves beneath the surface. In fact the only shading afforded to Cilla’s character comes in her relationship with manager Bobby Willis, yet he is treated with such indifference that their eventual fate comes as something of a surprise. Otherwise, the film maintains a light touch throughout, augmented by a scene-stealing performance from John Henshaw as Cilla’s father.
Pope’s next project adds to his oeuvre, being a limited series biopic of Cary Grant titled Archie.
as Cilla Black
as Ringo Starr
as Paul McCartney
as John Lennon