Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a charming story about an older widow who wants to experience life in the supposedly grand Claremont Hotel in London England. She is slightly disappointed by the shabbiness of the hotel and very disappointed by the neglect of her family, particularly her only grandson who lives in London but doesn't visit or even return her calls. She ends up befriending a young man (Ludo played by the gorgeous Rupert Friend) of about the same age as the neglectful grandson Desmond, after falling outside his flat and a lovely story unfolds.
Dame Joan Plowright, third and final wife of Sir Laurence Olivier and gem of the British cinema and stage is perfect as Mrs. Palfrey. Apparently she and Rupert Friend hit it off immediately, Rupert having been coached by his then girlfriend Keira Knightley as they were filming Pride & Prejudice at the time.
The story is from a 1971 novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the English novelist not the American actress) and was inspired by the novelist herself meeting a young man under similar unfortunate circumstances. It was truly genius to turn an incident in her life involving a skinned knee and a rescue by a lovely young man into a rich and touching story, perfect for adaptation to film.
Zoe Tapper who plays Gwendolyn, the love interest of Ludo (Rupert Friend) was so familiar looking but I couldn't place her. Well, turns out I had just seen her in Mr. Selfridge, the ITV series about the beginnings of the famous department store in London, which is airing in Britain now and will be on PBS starting March 31st 2013. She is a great actress in both Mrs. Palfrey and Mr. Selfridge (that sounds weird doesn't it?).
This film really makes me want to see Brief Encounter as well which is referenced in the film. I love how watching one film sometimes brings you to another, which you never would have found otherwise.
The writer and director, Dan Ireland is a fellow Canadian and apparently is quite adept at making a wonderful film on a shoestring budget. He has another film from 1996 called The Whole Wide World starring Renee Zellweger and Vincent D'Onofrio about a romance between a Texas schoolteacher in the 1930s and the pulp fiction writer Robert Howard (Conan the Barbarian). Apparently it has one of the hottest on screen kisses ever! Can anyone else verify this? Should we all run out and see this one too?
The Averard Hotel used for both exterior and interiors of The Claremont is no longer a working hotel as it was when this was filmed. However, Beaulieu Palace House is open to visitors daily and is just south of London. It has a Motor Museum on the grounds too for anyone wanting to check out their Bond Car Exhibit this year.
In any case, this film is adorable and if you get the chance to see it you will not regret it. It is not a barn burner but it will stay with you long afterwards, in the best possible way.