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Michael Paul Chan
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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
For All We Know
Performed by Rosemary Clooney
Music by J. Fred Coots (as Fred J Coots), lyrics by Sam Lewis (as M Sammel Lewis).
Published by Cromwell Music Inc. & Toy Town Tunes Inc.
By arrangement with Concord Records See more »
When I was eleven years old, I was sent away to boarding school in the English spa town of Malvern, where I spent the three worst and most miserable years of my life. Three times per term, my parents were allowed to visit for what were called exeat weekends, and when they did, they stayed at one of the many stiflingly mediocre hotels to be found in Malvern at that time. These hotels were full of the genteel poor portrayed in Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, long term residents. Many had spent their lives overseas, with no real roots in the UK and with no relatives who wanted to know them, and coming from ex colonies where they had lived with servants, they had little idea of how to fend for themselves. I get the feeling that writer Elizabeth Taylor must have spent time in some of the very places my parents stayed, and where I was forced to eat many an overcooked dinner served in hushed tones by wait-staff very similar to the ones shown here! Possibly Ruth Sacks who adapted the screenplay and director Dan Ireland visited too. Unfortunately few of the people I encountered at these run down spa hotels were half as interesting as the people who inhabit the Claremont, and there were definitely no Rupert Friend look-alikes to stir my pre-teen heart.
The story is transposed to London. Finding herself alone in her twilight years and with her family too busy to be interested in her, Mrs Palfrey, a woman who is still looking at life with interest and optimism, (and who presumably has at least some disposable income), moves into the Claremont Hotel, a slightly down at heel relic, and finds herself befriending a local young writer Ludovic, played by the appealing Rupert Friend, who was so noticeable as wicked Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice in 2005. Ludovic is a throwback to a bygone era of Romanticism, sensitive and idealistic, and they find mutual territory in poetry and gentle friendship despite the age difference. Ludovic finds himself being utilised as a stand in for Mrs Palfrey's real grandson, who never returns her calls, and who can't take the time out of his busy life to have dinner with his granny.
Joan Plowright is riveting as Mrs Palfrey. What a masterclass in acting this is! The other assorted characters are interesting and amusing in their own way, but are really presented as stereotypes, whereas Mrs Palfrey is seen as a well rounded human being with vulnerabilities, interests and needs as well as keen intelligence. For me, what makes this movie work so well, is that Mrs Palfrey, a Brit of a certain generation, has a fairly no-nonsense approach to life, so it never sinks into sentimentality, and there are no ponderous, sugar coated scenes where she tries to impart the wisdom of her years to her young acolyte. The simple message as far as there is one is that friendship matters and that the elderly may have interesting stories to tell if we bother to listen. A lovely movie.
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