Friday, December 15, 2006

MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT

Mrs. Palfrey at the ClaremontJoan Plowright Directed by Dan Ireland
Starring Joan Plowright
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

THUMBS UP!

THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!

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 major appeal.

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.

Click here for the Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont movie trailer!

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