Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

2005, UK, directed by Dan Ireland

Though the storyline is fairly predictable, and a little overly cute at times, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is grounded by some fine performances that keep the film from straying too far towards mush. Joan Plowright is excellent in the title role, playing an elderly woman who moves to a London hotel to retain some independence - but also, we sense, because her family views her existence as something of a burden. It's to Plowright's - and her director's - credit that she resists the urge to overplay the part, instead conveying a quiet pride and intelligence, and an enjoyably dry wit.

Plowright has able support from a group of fine British character actors playing other hotel guests (Anna Massey and Robert Lang, in his final role, are especially good), as well as from Rupert Friend, as a foppish young man for whom Mrs Palfrey becomes a surrogate grandmother. The film is in many ways about finding new families when our own doesn't quite seem to work, and there's an undercurrent of comment on the treatment of elderly relatives that lends the film a little bite to go along with the sweeter moments.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States