What a wonderful review. Strangely I was feeling kind of down about myself which is not often, and came upon this movie today - 6/25/11 - an HBO free day, and at age 73-1/2 I was in tears beholding the beauty and stately grace of Vanessa Redgrave who has always been one of my heroines. I had not seen a film with her in decades. She is more lovely than ever.
Sophie is a wonderful sensitive young lady and yes, I believe her acting reflected true feelings after her dear daughter Natasha Richardson's death. People act from life I believe. Of course I will be ordering this DVD from Amazon if and when it is available immediately after signing off here. Charlie, Claire's grandson, was the greatest "Romeo" possible.
And Meredith I agree with you about casting more of these great ladies, who are my inspiration as I am a silver woman too, but Vanessa Redgrave is pure platinum--as are three of some others you mention, Dame Judi, and Helen Mirren--strong, invincible, and they are true Queens of their craft. I was so thrilled to see Vanessa Redgrave' (herself's) former love, the still-dashing and sexy Franco Nero, in the film. They even looked in love!