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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
Love: Meeting the Needs of the Aged and the Youthful
MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT is an adaptation by Ruth Sacks of the book by British novelist Elizabeth Taylor (1912 - 1975) and directed with consummate skill by Dan Ireland. It is a showcase for the extraordinary talents of Dame Joan Plowright who owns the title role and of relative newcomer Rupert Friend, surely an actor to watch rise.
Mrs. Palfrey (Plowright) is recently widowed and decides to move to a small hotel in London to spend her last years as a lady of independence. The Claremont is a crumbling old edifice that serves as a retirement home for a small but fascinating group of tenants: the fastidious but cranky Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey), a would-be suitor for Mrs. Palfrey's hand Mr. Osborne (Robert Lang), Mrs. Post (Marcia Warren), the nosy matchmaker Mrs. Burton (Georgina Hale), and a strange old couple, the De Salises (Millicent Martin and Michael Culkin). Once settled into her barely navigable room, Mrs. Palfrey meets her fellow 'inmates' at dinner, and announces that she has a grandson who will be calling on her at times. Yet despite multiple attempts her grandson Desmond (Lorcan O'Toole) doesn't respond and Mrs. Palfrey realizes she has entered a world of loneliness.
Out on an errand she falls and is befriended by a handsome young busker/writer Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend) who nurses her leg wound, makes her tea, and escorts her home. Ludo is a loner and lonely and when Mrs. Palfrey offers him dinner at the hotel he gladly accepts. But at the hotel the guests presume that Mrs. Palfrey's guest will be her grandson Desmond: Mrs. Palfrey hastily informs Ludo that she has erred and Ludo agrees to pose as her grandson. The guests at the hotel are charmed by Ludo, and Mrs. Palfrey and Ludo grow increasingly bonded - they share many likes and tastes and meld into a beautiful relationship that would be the envy of any grandmother and grandson. Mrs. Palfrey's loneliness is dissipated by Ludo and the effect is vice versa. How the two progress to the end of the film, finding new lives from old ones, forms the immensely touching finale to the film.
Though this film falls into the 'ensemble acting' category, so finely entwined are the performances of every actor in the cast, the film clearly belongs to Dame Joan Plowright whose performance once again proves that she is one of the durable treasures of cinema and stage. This is a film that will touch the hearts of even the most hardened viewers and this viewer cannot recommend it more highly. Grady Harp, December 06
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