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I went into the Paris Theatre in New York last night, more as a refuge from the merciless weather that anything else. What a wonderful and unexpected surprise. Joan Plowright plays a widow who decides to live her last years of her life as an independent woman in a small retirement hotel in London. I'm not sure if she knew that independence sometimes means loneliness but she learns soon enough as loneliness becomes her constant companion. Her only grandson never calls, in fact nobody ever calls her. A fortuitous encounter with a young struggling writer will change her life as she will change his. This beautiful and seemingly simple story is filled with startling gems. Joan Plowright very much at the heart of the piece gives a multi-layered performance that never falls into sentimentality. Rupert Friend (Ludo, the struggling writer) is a perfect foil for the world she protectively stores in her brain and in her heart. The humor and the superb performances by the elderly guests of the hotel is a breath of fresh vintage air. When Ruper Friend meets Dame Joan's friends at the hotel, he exclaims "We're trapped in a Terence Rattigan play" Yes you are, beautifully so
There is much to admire in this surprising little movie. Joan Plowright gives one of the best performances of her career and that's no small claim. I connected with her immediately, she did reminded me of my own grandmother and I must admit I found myself with tears running down my face. Her brief encounter with a struggling writer, penniless but with a heart of gold and the face of a movie star becomes convincing against all odds. Ruper Friend displays a devastating charm and his goodness is actually believable. Even the great Anna Massey is given some magic moments on the screen but, perhaps, the biggest surprise is to find out that Ruth Sachs, the writer, is an 85 year old with no previous screen writing credits. The wit and youthful zest of her dialogs and that 1950's feel in a 2005 environment is the most startling aspect of "Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont" The film suffers from a hesitant composition, we move from close ups to long shots without any rhyme or reason but that flaw, annoying as it is, doesn't spoil the ultimate delights that the film offers. The occasional voice overs are another stroke of genius of Mrs. Sachs. They are the most poignant, opportune and beautifully delivered voice overs in recent memory. Whatever your age, do yourself a favor. Go meet Mrs Palfrey at any theater near you
"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.
You know the difference between your Mom's home made,
hand-made-with-love cookies and the mass produced things in the
supermarket? Well Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is a hand-made-with-love
I can't imagine anyone not being moved by this story of a friendship between and elderly (and still beautiful) lady and a sensitive young man of 26.
For me (not much younger than Mrs Palfrey) this was a double treat as the film contains so many wonderful old actors, people who have been in the business, excelling at their art for decades. It must have been daunting for the younger ones to be on set with all these gems.
Particularly nice to see Georgina Hale, who has the most unusual speech delivery which perfectly comes out as an 'elderly foible' in the movie but is, in fact, the way she talks all the time - wonderful! Dear old Robert Lang died shortly after the movie finished shooting, so it was dedicated to him - a fine tribute for a great actor.
There was just one tiny thing I would have liked - the backstory. It's not until 3/4 way through the movie that we realise why this obviously well-heeled lady (you have to be to afford full board in an hotel in Langham Place!) chose to move to London. Ostensibly it is to be near her grandson but he clearly has no time for her and never did. She's moved from Scotland but would have been better off in a village, a small community, not in the soulless city. So that's a bit of a problem, she simply doesn't have enough reason for such a radical change of scene.
But I'm being picky and the film deserves every plaudit - doesn't need Oscars, leave them for the glitzy trash, this is way, way above Oscar level. This is genius and near perfection.
There has been some criticism that it's too sugary, that a young man would never befriend an old lady but this is ridiculous. Though Taylor's Ludo was not quite as open-hearted as the character played so equisitely by Rupert Friend, I know from personal experience that such friendships are not only possible but frequent.
So, if you want to see some of Britain's real stars, home-made goodies every one, acting with sensitivity, humour and considerable charm, this is the film to see - take someone you love. Take hankies too.
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.
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
I attended a screening of this film and was so touched by it that I am still thinking of all the things I wished i could of said, could of done, and should of done with my own grandmother -- if she was still here today. for anyone who has ever had a grandmother or grandfather or needed a friend and found one by surprise, this is for us. it really is. Rupert Friend is stunning. Joan Plowright -- unbelievable. the rest of the cast, the story, the direction, the score, everything -- perfect. To the filmmakers of this movie, I wish you the best success and hope others get the chance to enjoy it as much as I did. it just goes to show that good things come in small packages. In my case and imprint has been left and Ill never forget how it touched me.
MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT is an elegant, moving story of a lovely
woman of age on a journey to find something meaningful again in her
life and literally "trips" into the life of a young man on his own
journey to find himself as a writer. Many will think of HAROLD AND
MAUDE, but MRS. PALFREY is a much more enticing film of two people, no
matter the age, who happen to come into each other's lives at a time
when they become very important to each other in the self repair of
their own images. A brilliant, wonderful, beautifully presented film.
Joan Plowright as Mrs. Palfrey is so lovely on the screen and in her meeting the handsome Rupert Friend, Ludvic, seems to take on a glow of happiness and pleasure as their friendship deepens and they become more involved in each other's lives. Their scenes in the lovely parks of London as well as the interiors of the Claremont are scenes that have humor, compassion and great understanding between them. This is something which is missing in both their relationships with their own families.
Through Mrs. Palfrey, and their conversations about film, Ludvic is able to find a young woman who loves him for himself, and as Mrs. Palfrey's journey ends, his begins with the happiness and satisfaction of having found not only Mrs. Palfrey, but someone who will be with him in his life, and truly love him for the man he is.
As Oscar season approaches, Joan Plowright's MRS. PALFREY is a film to remember, honor and cherish.
A powerful, yet subtle film that will touch anyone with a pulse. Joan Plowright is a gift from God, and no wonder Laurence Olivier married her. What a breathtaking performance! Rupert Friend is another reason to state that the best actors are coming out of England. He matches Dame Plowright's prowess with his elegant subtle grace, and the match is one made in movie heaven. What a shame the Oscars passed this one by, they always do when it comes to intelligent smallish films with a heart, as if they never existed. Do yourselves a favor, run to see this as soon as you can, and if anyone tells you different, grab their wrist, check their pulse to see if they have one. Kudos to all involved in pulling this one off.
You know when a director with the last name of Ireland does a film
about a Scottish lady coming to London that there's got to be some
Independent film lovers will cheer for MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT, a story with a strong script, excellent acting, and some sumptuous English scenery.
Joan Plowright (JANE EYRE, 1996) stars as Mrs. Palfrey, an aging widow who's traveled from Scotland to London to start her life anew in her sunset years. She decides to spend her waning years at a retirement hotel called The Claremont, a somewhat drab locale from what was advertised to Mrs. Claremont in a picture magazine. No matter. She makes herself comfortable, running into The Claremont's quirky staff and residents. The bellhop is a portly and sonorous balding man who mumbles more than he speaks. And the residents range from overly-nosy to irritatingly grumpy. But most want to know why Mrs. Palfrey's grandson, Desmond, (whom she calls all the time) doesn't come to see her.
One potentially rainy day, Mrs. Palfrey is returning from an outdoor excursion, hurrying home, when she stumbles and falls outside a young man's flat. The 26-year-old man's odd name is Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, 2005). Ludy (as he likes to be called) helps Mrs. Palfrey and in return asks that she help him write a really great novel. He wants to use her years and experience to aid in his telling of the story. Ludy seems like such a nice young man that Mrs. Palfrey agrees. Ludy walks Mrs. Palfrey home and everyone at The Claremont immediately believes this to be the elusive Desmond. Mrs. Palfrey lets this deception continue and even invites Ludy over for dinner at The Claremont posing as her grandson. Everyone is smitten with Mrs. Palfrey's faux-grandson and a relationship between Mrs. Palfrey and Ludy starts blossoming.
This isn't a Harry and Maude relationship. This is a relationship not built on a scrap of sexual innuendo. It is a love of friendship and understanding that reaches deep into each of the characters and pulls out of it a fantastic end of life/beginning of life set of circumstances. The beauty of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is that the story builds on each subsequent scene, moving us deeper and deeper into their lives. We see Mrs. Palfrey's love of her dead husband, Arthur, and the beginnings of Ludy's relationship with a beautiful young lady thanks to a movie recommendation by Mrs. Palfrey.
Although the beginning of the film takes a while to catch on (i.e., it may seem painstakingly slow to some), the ending is well worth your time. It is a story that's been told before, but not with such impact, and this is undoubtedly thanks to the strong script by Ruth Sacks based on Elizabeth Taylor's bestselling novel (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor).
Also, the filming at the New Forest Palace grounds near the Abbey at Beaulieu was some wonderful visual candy for fans of this film. It was unbelievably beautiful.
One big warning: make sure you keep a box of Kleenex next to you as the story comes to a close. You'll need 'em.
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