Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

The largest demographic of the movie-going public is young. Studios respond in kind by making movies that would appeal to them. The logic is that by making movies for the group that goes to movies the most, they will make the most money. This also means that older people tend to get the shaft. Well, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is the movie for them. Palfrey will probably make most people under the age of twenty-five cringe or fall asleep. They're missing out on a wonderful performance from Dame Joan Plowright (Curious George, I Am David) in a movie that is a bit light on plot. The movie is an amusing and poignant look at an elderly woman trying to regain her independence.

Palfrey moves to London shortly after the death of her husband to be closer to her grandson and less of a burden to her daughter. She saw an ad for the Claremont and booked a room there. The actual hotel leaves much to be desired, and fellow boarder Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey, The Machinist, Possession) believes that while there, people are not allowed to die. Instead, they suffer with mediocre food and strange fellow boarders. Palfrey does eventually make some friends, and talks constantly about her grandson Desmond. Weeks pass, and Desmond never shows, leading them to believe he is imaginary. One day, Palfrey trips and falls, and a dashing young man, Ludo (Rupert Friend, Pride & Prejudice, The Libertine) comes to her rescue.

The friendship that develops between Ludo and Palfrey is the heart of Elizabeth Taylor's (no, not that one) novel, adapted by Ruth Sacks and directed by Dan Ireland (Passionada, The Velocity of Gary). The two are kindred spirits who both enjoy good poetry. Ludo is dashingly handsome in a bohemian way and the perfect gentleman. Palfrey invites him to lunch at the Claremont, and when he arrives, they pretend that he is Desmond. Soon, Ludo/Desmond has enraptured the fellow boarders. But the real magic happens between the two. Palfrey was getting bored with life. The routine of the Claremont was wearing her down, and the infusion of Ludo into her life was the change she needed to reinvigorate herself.

It's a very unlikely friendship that deepens as the film continues. The fake relationship of grandmother/grandson develops into something much more akin to the real thing. Palfrey's performance is subtle. She conveys many emotions with a minimum of effort, and as things become more complicated as the movie progresses, she adds a sense of mischieviousness to the Palfrey character. It's also good to see Palfrey slowly come out of her shell, and slowly bond with the usual group of weird but lovable supporting characters. The Ludo character is a bit more boring. He doesn't have much depth; he just smiles and looks eerily like Orlando Bloom. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont doesn't go for any deep personal epiphanies, it just wants to be a nice, heart-warming movie, and it succeeds at this.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Not Rated but would probably be a PG or G.

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