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Review: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

Both Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend are so committed to their roles that their friendship in the film almost seems credible.

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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Photo: Cineville/Picture Entertainment

With the upcoming Mrs. Henderson Presents, Stephen Frears gives Judi Dench a Being Julia to call her own. Dan Ireland (The Whole Wild World) is equally generous with Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, which affords Joan Plowright her own Trip to Bountiful. The eponymous septuagenarian of this spotty weepy arrives in London from destinations unknown and settles down at the Claremont Hotel, where old people apparently go to die. When Mrs. Palfrey (Plowright) takes a tumble after a trip to a nearby mailbox, a young aspiring writer picks her up and takes her into his sublet. Cue completely unnecessary let’s-get-it-on music as the foxy Ludovic (Rupert Friend) applies peroxide to the woman’s leg, dabbing the wounded area with the lower part of his shirt. With Ludovic’s obliques dutifully exposed and Mrs. P longing for the tender loving care her family won’t give her, the stage seems set for a May-December romance. But Sarah takes Ludovic under her wing in a different capacity: as her surrogate grandson, whom she parades in front of her eccentric friends at the Claremont as if he were the real deal. She inspires him to write (and introduces him to Brief Encounter) while he helps her to go gently into the night. Both Plowright and Friend are so committed to their roles that their friendship in the film almost seems credible, but Ireland and screenwriter Ruth Sacks aren’t nearly as devoted to evoking the Claremont as an enchanted last stop before the pearly gates of the great beyond (the film could have used some of that afterglow Alan Rudolph applied to Made in Heaven), too often confusing gooey sentimentality for legit compassion.

Cast: Joan Plowright, Rupert Friend, Zoe Tapper, Anna Massey, Robert Lang, Marcia Warren, Georgina Hale, Millicent Martin, Michael Culkin, Clare Higgins Director: Dan Ireland Screenwriter: Ruth Sacks Distributor: Cineville/Picture Entertainment Running Time: 108 min Rating: NR Year: 2005 Buy: Video

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