Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
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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.
BY ROGER EBERT You may think there is no hotel in London like the Claremont, where Mrs. Palfrey becomes a lodger. No hotel where respectable gentlefolk can live by the month and have their breakfasts and dinners served to them in a dining room where good manners prevail. No hotel where the bellman is an aged ruin who nevertheless barks commands at the desk clerk. No hotel where the elevator is a brass cage that rises and falls majestically and discharges its passengers from behind ornate sliding doors. But here and there such relics survive. A very few of my readers will have stayed at the Eyrie Mansion on Jermyn Street when it was run by Henry and Doddy Togna, and they will nod in recognition, although the mansion, to be sure, had no dining room. They will remember Bob the hall porter, who drove Henry crazy by getting drunk every eighth day ("If Bob got drunk every seventh day, on a regular schedule like, we could plan for it"). Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) books into the Claremont almost blindly. She is in flight from life with her grown daughter in Scotland, and wants to be independent. She is a stoic. Shown her room (twin beds of different heights, a desk, a mirror, a straight chair and an arm chair), she says, "Oh, dear!" Learning from the aged ruin that the bathroom is down the hall and the early bird gets the hot water, she cannot even manage an "oh, dear!" In the dining room, she meets the regulars, particularly the brisk Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey), who tells the others to shut up when they require such coaching. There is also dear Mr. Osborne (Robert Lang), who asks her to a "do" at the Mason's Hall. Mrs. Palfrey hopes to spend time with her grandson Desmond, who works in the City, but he is an ingrate who never returns her calls. Then one day, while returning from the branch library with a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover for Mrs. Arbuthnot, she stumbles on the sidewalk and is rescued by a nice young man named Ludovic (Rupert Friend). He invites her into the borrowed basement flat when he lives, serves her tea, rubs disinfectant on her bruise and explains he is a writer who supports himself as a street musician. Ludovic is too good to be true, really. Too kind, too gentle, too patient with a lady 60 years his senior. But "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont" is the kind of movie where nice people turn up, and soon Ludovic is doing Mrs. Palfrey a favor. She is embarrassed that everyone in the dining room wonders why her grandson has never appeared at dinner, and so she asks Ludovic to pretend to be Desmond, and he agrees. Just as teenagers enjoy escapist movies, so do the elderly. They simply prefer a gentler pace. What is touching about "Mrs. Palfrey" is that she is allowed to be elderly, and not turned into a hip-hop granny. This movie is based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist, not the actress), and a screenplay by Ruth Sacks, herself in her 80s. Incredibly, it represents the biggest screen role that the great Joan Plowright (herself 77) has ever had, and it's little surprise she has won the AARP award as actress of the year. Among the regulars in the Claremont dining room, there is that minute scrutiny inmates of such establishments always carry out, because of boredom, jealousy, or simple curiosity. All I really miss are complaints about the food. I recall my aunt Mary O'Neill sadly surveying her dinner at a retirement home and complaining: "How am I expected to eat this, Rog? Sliced chicken, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. It's all white, honey! It needs carrots." "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont" has a parabola that is not startling. Mrs. Palfrey will undergo some disappointments and surprises, and Ludovic will learn a life lesson or two, and we accept all that because it comes with the territory. The movie is a delight, in way --ROGER EBERT May 5-2006
The tale of an unlikely friendship between an elderly widow and a young writer, "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont" is an endearing, deceptively simple story. Like helmer Dan Ireland's previous (and very different) films, "Mrs. Palfrey" excels at presenting a relationship unfurling. Pic's debt to "Harold and Maude" is clear -- one character, eyeing the friendship, even mentions that classic comedy by name -- but this is a far gentler film, a low-key drama with comedic undertones that will appeal to older auds, arthouse patrons, and Joan Plowright fans. When Mrs. Palfrey (Plowright) arrives at London's Claremont Hotel (sporting, in a delicious homage, Celia Johnson's hat from "Brief Encounter"), she announces under her breath, "I had expected something quite different." In fact, her stay at the senior-oriented residence hotel is nothing like she anticipated. Having relocated from Scotland to be near her 26-year-old grandson Desmond (Lorcan O'Toole), Mrs. Palfrey soon faces a host of questions from well-meaning but nosy fellow residents. Where is Desmond, wonders Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey), among others, and when will he be coming to visit? But Desmond fails to return Mrs. Palfrey's many calls. Just as she is about to retreat into loneliness, she stumbles and falls outside the flat of aspiring scribe Ludovic "Ludo" Meyer (Rupert Friend). Meyer treats her wounds, and a friendship begins. In their ensuing conversations, it's clear that each fills a void for the other, and that these two lonely souls have much more in common that meets the eye. Ludo even agrees to pass himself off as Mrs. Palfrey's grandson during a visit to the Claremont. Some situational comedy follows, especially when the real Desmond finally shows up and Mrs. Palfrey tries to pass him off as her accountant. But pic's best moments are those in which the friendship of Mrs. Palfrey and Ludo grows into a deep bond. One scene in particular, in which Ludo serenades her with an impromptu version of "For All We Know," is beautifully directed. Mrs. Palfrey inadvertently plays matchmaker for Ludo when she recommends her favorite film, "Brief Encounter," to him, and, at the video store, Ludo collides with another customer, Gwendolyn (Zoe Tapper of "Stage Beauty"), who becomes his girlfriend. Plowright is cast here in one of her best roles in years. So often relegated to dotty supporting perfs, she carries this pic squarely on her shoulders as the proud, private Mrs. Palfrey. And, she's surprisingly well-matched by Friend as the kindly young writer. Friend joins a list of young actors shepherded by Ireland, including Renee Zellweger, Thomas Jane and Emmy Rossum; with his strapping looks and ample talent, Friend can expect bigger roles ahead. Final act is unexpectedly dark and poignant, but also offers hope and misty optimism. The entire film has a retro look and feel that is especially evident in its costumes and intimate settings. Pic also features also a rich, evocative score by Steven Barton. --Variety
It would be easy to overpraise a film like Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. There's a wealth of sentimental, sad scenes, enacted by old pros like Plowright and Massey and Lang, that are ruthlessly calculated to tug at the heartstrings, and which suggest a better film in your memory and in your heart than what was actually on the screen. So let's not do that; let's give the film the proper respect it deserves. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a pleasant, poignant, though familiar fable, simply presented, and touchingly acted. No more; no less. Final Thoughts: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a shameless little sentimental piece that boasts a wonderful, tender performance by Joan Plowright. She lets us see a character we never see on the movie screens anymore: a fully functioning, fully emotional, vibrant, caring, intelligent older person in a lead role. And for that, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont gets my recommendation. If the movie blows the chance to be something more than just an at times affecting escapist fantasy, well, so what? It still lets us see a total pro in action, giving one of the best performances of her career. I recommend Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. --DVDTalk.com
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Top customer reviews
It has heart. Emotion. Character (and, frames CHARACTERS in fun clash of love and interaction with one another).
I feel i have glimpsed something wonderful... but when I go to pick it apart, it is as if Mrs. Palfrey's memories are my memories. And they dance like fireflies.. so enjoyable, so alive... so quotable... so full of lessons that is hard to define one exact moment from the movie to relate here in this review.
Just trust me that this movie is far more than a one time watcher. It is chock full of wonderful acting, good writing, and deep story.
I was able to watch it free on Prime... but i think it is one i will need to add to my permanent collection
I should note that I know very little of Mrs. Palfrey's world, and relate much more readily with her "grandson". I am not British. I have not lived a long life. But, in the end, find I share more with these characters than I knew. That is to say, this movie is for all ages. As long as you have no need for filthy violence, or special effects that so often drive a trivial story. As long as you don't mind a thought provoking WONDERFUL film.Watch it!! It's a grade A movie filmed with a grade B camera... But, i implore you - whoever you are- give Mrs Palfrey a CHANCE! you will love it! And feel you are part of the family.
The young man is Ludovic Meyer or Ludo (Rupert Friend) who is an aspiring writer. Ludo doesn't have much confidence in himself, partly because his own mother finds him a disappointment, but Mrs. Palfrey encourages him. Ludo also helps Mrs. Palfrey out by acting as her grandson to dispel the general belief among the hotel's residents that this grandson is non-existent. I loved the banter between the two: the older, genteel widow who shares her life experiences and imparts bits of wisdom, and the young man seeking to make a future for himself and gaining confidence, while also imparting one of life's greatest gifts - the gift of friendship and loyalty.
By the movie's end, I was in tears. There is such a bittersweet feel to this film, and I could not help wishing that I too someday, in my twilight years will be blessed with a special friendship like that shared between Mrs. Palfrey and Ludo. Highly recommended.