But it isn’t long before his head is turned by Marilyn (a quite brilliant Michelle Williams), as her unpredictable behaviour soon begins to affect production. Unsure of herself and constantly forgetting her lines, Marilyn comes across as being suffocated by intolerable sadness and Williams imbues her with a sense of intense vulnerability.
Marilyn is a tortured soul and constantly seeks reassurance, particularly from her acting coach Paula Strasberg (the excellent Zoe Wanamaker). Yet Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) is an impatient perfectionist and his bossy, bullying manner only serves to further alienate Marilyn, who seeks solace in medication. Her state of mind worsens when new husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) returns to the US, leaving her further isolated. And this is where Clark emerges as the atypical knight in shining armour.
For Marilyn, Clark represents normality, unblemished as he is by the artificiality of the life she leads and as such provides her with some much needed respite. Marilyn is a lonely soul and comes across as very self aware, recognising that her persona is contrived and artificial, even uttering the words: “shall I be her?” at one stage.
Although sabotaging his chances with Lucy, Clark can’t resist Marilyn’s beauty or charms and an unexpected bond forms between them. Although Clark’s romantic intentions are never fully realised, his protective manner towards Marilyn provide her with all she really needs as he effectively nurses her to the end of production.
Tonally it’s all a bit light and inconsequential, but that’s surely a given, seeing as Adrian Hodges’ screenplay is based on what is essentially a fantastical and idealistic memoir of a fleeting and unfulfilled romantic encounter. Curtis’ direction is assured and with fine attention paid to period detail, but given the slight narrative he at times leans too much on his actor’s performances.
But it is perhaps that reliance that coaxed such a superb turn from Williams, who so expertly captures the essence of Marilyn, lending her an incredible vulnerability, a self-destructive level of self-doubt and a forlorn solemnity that is belied by her natural magnetism.
Branagh’s bolshy Olivier is dramatically droll and manages to at least hint at a professional uncertainty behind the bravado. This was after all a theatrical legend who was desperately trying to reignite and revive his cinematic career. Solid support is provided by the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper and Derek Jacobi and perhaps given such exalted company, the only slight disappointment of the ensemble is Eddie Redmayne, whose Clark comes across as a naïve, somewhat sappy idealist living in a dream world who is sorely lacking in presence and is somewhat unlikeable.
Williams undoubtedly steals the show and should be a cert for awards recognition come the new year. Branagh too can expect a few nods, but don’t expect anything more, despite the inevitable Weinstein Oscar push, as My Week with Marilyn, whilst a solidly entertaining piece of film making is paper thin and too light to be considered anything more than pleasing.