Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

Director: Dan Ireland

Director Dan Ireland proved in his little-seen but excellent film The Whole Wide World that he has a special place in his heart for tales of unusual friendships and aspiring writers. In Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, he crafts a tender and surprising work starring Joan Plowright as a lonely widow who leaves her home in Scotland and stays at a hotel in London, erroneously assuming it would lead to excitement, posh new acquaintances and adventures. Instead, dismayed by the gloomy surroundings where she is offered marriage by a lonely man for the sake of companionship and invited to join the other senior women in front of the television for Sex and the City night, Mrs. Palfrey tries to connect with her grandson, Desmond. While unfortunately, the self-involved and indifferent members of her own family don’t respond, an accident causes Palfrey to meet a charming twenty-six year old man with whom she strikes up a friendship. However, there’s nothing Harold and Maude about their relationship as the actors of Plowright and Rupert Friend (from Pride and Prejudice) pose as grandmother and grandson. This refreshing film has much to say about the importance of friendship at any age and the need for human connection, for although chronologically the two are generations apart, they’re kindred spirits who both recognize how difficult it is to make new friends, either due to age (Plowright) or lack of finances and a steady job (Friend). Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a quiet film that begins slowly without much action for the first twenty minutes and while some may be tempted to abandon the film due to its sense of melancholy at the start, it’s nonetheless heartwarming and unique. It’s fitting that Mrs. Palfrey’s favorite film is Brief Encounter, for, as Friend reveals in the narration at the end of Claremont, the characters remind us of those wonderful rare individuals who manage to make their mark on our lives no matter how little or long we are associated with them.