Netflix update No. 15: “Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont”

August 13, 2009

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

We watched the 2005 film “Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont,” which director Dan Ireland and screenwriter Ruth Sacks adapted from a novel by the late British writer, Elizabeth Coles Taylor. We are in our Joan Plowright period, and that wonderful actress plays the title role in this film — Mrs. Palfrey, that is, not The Claremont.

The Claremont is a past-its-prime London hotel where the aged, refined widow, Mrs. Palfrey, takes up temporary residence in the hope of establishing a relationship with her only grandson, Desmond. The grandson, who labors in the archives of the British Museum — one can only imagine — does not return her telephone calls, leaving Mrs. Palfrey to fill her days reading Wordsworth and cautiously interacting with the odd collection of residents at the hotel, who gradually begin to suspect that Desmond doesn’t exist.

RUPERT FRIEND

RUPERT FRIEND

Mrs. Palfrey’s life takes an unexpected turn when she stumbles, literally, into the acquaintance of a nearly destitute writer Ludovic Meyer, played by Rupert Friend. The story of their relationship explores the question of what actually constitutes family.

This is a deceptively intense film that pokes at some potentially painful issues that many of us will confront in reality sooner or later — issues of loneliness, vulnerability, and fulfillment.

Joan Plowright is magnetic and moving as always, and she is supported by several skilled performers, including those who play the quirky guests and staff at The Claremont, and the stunning Zoe Tapper, who appears as the lover Meyer finds only because his path first crossed that of Mrs. Palfrey.

Don’t pass this one up.

RUPERT FRIEND and JOAN PLOWRIGHT

RUPERT FRIEND and JOAN PLOWRIGHT

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