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Mrs. Palfrey, recently widowed after a long happy marriage, moves into a London residential hotel more lively and elegant on line than in fact. She determines to make the best of it among an odd assortment of people, and she particularly hopes her grandson, a London resident, will visit. When she slips on a walk and is aided by a penniless young writer, she invites him to dine at the Claremont and plays along when her dining mates assume he's her grandson. A friendship develops giving her a companion with whom she can talk about memories and poetry and giving him ideas and support for his writing. But what of her actual family? How it plays out is the movie's story. Written by
"Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont" is the right vehicle for Joan Plowright in which to shine. As guided by Dan Ireland, this bittersweet novel by Elizabeth Taylor about a genteel world in our time gets a great treatment for the screen by Ruth Sacks.
Mrs. Palfrey is a woman of independent means that decides to spend some time in a London hotel she saw in an advertisement in Scotland. As happens with this sort of thing, the picture in the newspaper was much better than the reality this lady encounters as she settles for her stay at the Claremont. One of the things that made Mrs. Palfrey's mind was the promise of the fine English cuisine something the taxi driver, that is taking her to her new home, finds extremely amusing.
The hotel is home to some older women and men that are retired, but who are nearby to all the attractions that a great city like London has to offer. Since it's such a small place, curiosity and a bit of gossip are found among the people one sees, basically in the dining hall at breakfast, or at dinner.
Mrs. Palfrey meets Ludovic when she falls on the sidewalk in front of his apartment. "Ludo", as he wants to be called, is a busker, a young man that sings in the underground in exchange of the coins passersby throw in his guitar case. Mrs. Palfrey has a grandson, Desmond, who proves to be illusive, at best; so trying to be kind to Ludo, she invites him for dinner at the Claremont and asks him to pretend he is her grandson. This proves to be the beginning of a happy and uncomplicated friendship between a woman at the end of her life and a young man just beginning his.
The main reason for watching the film is Joan Plowright in one of the best roles of her career. Lately, this fine actress has been relegated to playing grandmothers, and assorted ladies in the American cinema, and frankly, she is an actress that clearly deserves better, although not many older roles are written for actresses her age. The film is targeted to a mature audience that identifies with the leading lady of the film.
Rupert Friend makes a good Ludovic and plays well against Ms. Plowright. Zoe Tapper is Gwendolyn, the girl he meets at the video store when they are both reaching for "Brief Encounter", which is Mrs. Palfrey's favorite movie. Anna Massey is splendid as Mrs. Arbuthnot and Millicent Martin is seen in a small role.
The film is a delightful way to spend time at the movies with great company. Thanks to Joan Plowright and Dan Ireland, this is a film the joy it is.
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