MRS PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT
When elderly and genteel Mrs Palfrey (Joan Plowright) becomes one of the long term residents at The Claremont hotel in Kensington, she - along with the other elderly residents - expects a visit or two from her nearby grandson Damien (Lorcan O'Toole). But when she has a fall outside the basement flat of genial young writer Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend), they quickly strike up an unlikely friendship. Ludovic soon makes an appearance at The Claremont, in the guise of grandson Damien, much to the guests' delight. But the pretence cannot last as long as the friendship.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The prowess of Plowright is the element that makes this film watchable, a sublime character study that is subtle yet revealing and complete. Mrs Palfry's manners, her posture and her quiet but resolute nature makes the film work as a character study. Rupert Friend is eminently likeable as the young writer who befriends the elderly Mrs Palfrey, hut he does get a bit cloying after a while with his adoring attentions and genial smile. The relationship is credible, though, because Joan Plowright makes it so. Who wouldn't befriend such a classy, intelligent lady?
The characters surrounding her at The Claremont, however well performed, fall into British archetypes and caricatures of the slightly oddball variety. Whether the novel by Elizabeth Taylor (not THE Liz Taylor) is more satisfying in this regard I don't know. Perhaps it's a lack of imagination in the adaptation process...
Despite the measured pace and the predictable bitter sweet mood, the film is only occasionally enchanting.
Review by Louise Keller:
It is a friendship that simply happens. A young writer and an elderly widow meet by chance and are inspired by each other. Joan Plowright revels in the central role of the newly widowed Mrs Palfrey who arrives in London to start a new life. When she arrives at The Claremont, it is clearly not what she expects. She has always been someone's daughter, wife and mother, and now, she wants to indulge in some independence, A stickler for manners and etiquette, she is not ready for the rest of the residents of the genteel hotel, or their curiosity about her grandson Desmond (Lorcan O'Toole) who has not answered her calls. Reflective, bittersweet and at times charming, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is a wonderful character study, but less successful overall.
It doesn't matter that the central friendship between Mrs Palfrey and Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend) is rather unbelievable. Handsome studs wanting to spend lots of time with a woman old enough to be their grandmother are not easy to come by. But there is something enticing about their relationship as he becomes her rescuer. Firstly, he helps her after a fall, and then agrees to pretend to be her grandson at dinner in the hotel's dining room. 'Good lord, we're trapped in a Terrence Rattigan play,' he murmurs. But the relationship is not one-sided. Mrs Palfrey gives Ludovic ideas for the book he is writing, and indirectly becomes matchmaker when he looks for her favourite film (Brief Encounter) and meets a girl in the video shop.
Plowright and Friend have a quietly satisfying chemistry. They are gentle with each other, and despite their age difference, find a commonality in their love of Wordsworth and Blake. It's a gentle film that bustles with melancholy.
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MRS PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT (PG)
CAST: Joan Plowright, Rupert Friend, Zoe Tapper, Anna Massey, Robert Lang, Marcia Warren, Georgina Hale, Millicent Martin, Michael Culkin, Anna Carteret, Lorcan O'Toole
PRODUCER: Lee Caplin, Carl Colpaert, Zachary Matz
DIRECTOR: Dan Ireland
SCRIPT: Ruth Sacks (novel by Elizabeth Taylor)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Claudio Rocha
EDITOR: Nigel Galt, Virginia Katz
MUSIC: Stephen Barton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Julian Nagel
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 26, 2006