Quartet, just received its UK premiere at the London Film Festival. Dame Maggie Smith stars in this bittersweet story about the pathos of reaching the end of a career, and of life.
Adapted by Ronald Harwood from his 1999 play, It tells the story of a fabulously talented group of retired opera singers, who are gearing up for their annual concert that will raise funds to keep the ridiculously beautiful retirement home for musicians (Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire) going. When Reggie’s (Tom Courtenay) ex love-of-his-life Jean (Maggie Smith) moves in, she inadvertently stirs up their previously easy mapped-out lives. She drags up painful memories all round – from pain of love lost, to a wonderful rekindled rivalry with a fellow star soprano (Gwyneth Jones).
Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay with Director Dustin Hoffman
Gwyneth Jones and Dustin Hoffman filming Quartet
Pauline Collins and Maggie Smith
Jean’s arrival also means that the once highly famed operatic ensemble, ‘The Quartet’ are now reunited. Seeing the potential for a last hurrah, there are a lot of issues to work through, especially between Jean and Reggie (who were once married), before the Quartet can grace the stage once more.
Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut, and has shown himself to be subtle and sympathetic behind the camera. The cast are all beyond brilliant – Maggie Smith. Say no more. She is always divine on screen – the emotion in her eyes is so deep you cannot help but be drawn in. A scene stealing Billy Connolly was delicious – his naughty banter was hilarious, particularly with the young doctor (Sheridan Smith), which is among the film’s lightest moments.
Overall, it is truly a touching, funny, and wonderful film, that I would highly recommend, whatever your age. And FYI, don’t leave before the credits have finished – the photographs of all the actor/musicians in their ‘heyday’ were almost as moving as the story I had just been told. Perfect.
The London Film Festival is running 10-21 October 2012, sponsored by American Express.
For more information, please go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff/