Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

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mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

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mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

mrs palfrey at the claremont

Thank you so much everyone for all the lovely comments and kind emails I received about my birthday, not to mention the nice surprises in the mail. I don't think I've ever gotten such a large amount of emails in one day before. I really appreciate each and every single one of them. I also spoke on the Jane Eyre preview film panel last night, and got some really fantastic questions from the audience. I love a good discussion about film! But I'll tell you more about that in my next guest post for Leeloo soon.

Speaking of my birthday and lovely surprises in the mail, I received a dvd from a very good friend of mine in England. Based on Elizabeth Taylor's novel, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is a film that has a sentimental meaning for my friend and I. The day after a party, we couldn't be bothered cleaning up, and decided to nurse our headaches with some dvds instead. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont was the first dvd we saw that day (randomly selected from the shelf), and I always associate this film with finally feeling at home in England. When I returned to Australia I searched for this dvd, but couldn't find it. So I was thrilled that my friend remembered this and sent me a copy, along with a deliciously long letter.

This is a sweet and modest film. There is ostensibly, nothing remarkable about it, but that's where its charm lies. It's a simple tale, told in an appealing and unpretentious manner. Mrs Palfrey (Joan Plowright), an elderly widowed woman who is abandoned by her family in a London retirement hotel, becomes close friends with a young writer named Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend) after they meet during an accident. The bond they develop is not a romantic one, even if Ludovic does remind her of her late husband. The film isn't really about exploring sexual relationships. Rather, it explores the bonds of friendship that we form with people at certain stages in our lives, and how these bonds can be stronger and closer than the ties of family and blood. I think it's rare for a film to focus on such a friendship - usually it's the other way round with an older man and a younger woman, and the relationship is typically sexual. Here, the roles are reversed, and are also more interesting.

I have to admit that a large part of the film's appeal lies in the character of Ludovic. This is not just because he's played by Rupert friend, who looks so handsome throughout most of the film, in a scruffy sort of way. It's more because he is such a good person, without being too sugary sweet or stereotypical. What I particularly like about the film's portrayal of his characters is his nature as a writer. Every time I thought the film was resorting to the cliche of the tortured writer, it pulled itself back, and instead presented a rather sensitive, but realistic person before us, trying his best to write. There were moments in the film that reminded me of this quote from Jack Kerouac's notebook:

You don’t realize what a strain it is on the nerves to write or think-of-writing all day long, and to sleep full of nervous dreams, and to wake up not knowing who one is: - this all stems from anxiety about finishing the book, about time ‘growing short’ , etc., and the perpetual strain of invention. (quote from here.)

I can totally relate to this feeling right about now, trying to finish my own book. And watching this film, I felt it was sympathetic to this process, in its own subdued manner. There are so many films that are over the top these days, it's nice to enjoy quieter films, and appreciate the small details they have to offer. I think the nicest thing for me about this film though is remembering that feeling of lying on my friend's couch after such a great night. I love how certain films become part of personal memories.

Thanks again for all the birthday wishes. xx


nikaela marie said...

i missed saying happy birthday! hope you had the happyiest day.

this is a perfect and clear movie review, as always, thanks!

ps. have you read "object of beauty"

julie said...

hi hila,
i wish you a happy belated birthday and a great year to follow!
i can see how this film is appealing in its sensitivity. i also rather like Joan Plowright.
i will look it up :)

Julie said...

"perpetual strain of invention". I completely understand this feeling-it can be so tiring.

Happy late birthday-loved all the goodies you shared!

amy said...

oh i hunted this one down a couple of years ago, i remember it being a little slow but very sweet. (and rupert friend is lovely!)

Joanna said...

After you posted these beautiful stills I have to watch this film!

Jane Flanagan said...

I must seek this out. I too love quieter films, where not a tremendous amount happens (typical Beckettan streak). And that Kerouac quote resonates with me too, particularly the inability of finding oneself through writing. It's such a shifting thing, one moment comforting, the next angst-ridden.

And I'm so very happy you had a nice birthday.

Molly said...

The only film I can think of where I've seen a relationship form between a younger man and older woman is Harold and Maude, which was anything but platonic. I think I'd enjoy a story line that focuses more, like you said, on the friendships that are created regardless of age gaps. Sounds like a lovely film! And deep, meaningful gifts like that from dear friends are just simply the best :) Good luck finishing your book!

chocolatine said...

i hope you had a great birthday!

i love the film reviews that you post. the films you write about feel like they've been carefully chosen to fit the aesthetic of your blog.

Ella said...

what a sweet concept for a film! i'm excited to add this to my list of films i must view! :)

E. said...

A very happy, belated, birthday to you! Wish I could have been there in the audience for the Jane Eyre film panel!

I love that Kerouac quote! I can really relate to it!

x E.

Amelia said...

A very belated happy birthday! I hope you had a blast and this year will bring you lots of joy.

I remember watching this movie with my mother a few years back. It's such a beautiful movie.

thea said...

oooh i haven't seen it! but now I will! I should really ask you what your favourite films are of all time... and then educate myself with them :)


onesilentwinter said...

i picked this up a month ago from the library and watched it my mum and her visit. we both liked it very much. i like you loved ludavic, handsome but like you i t was his kindness more so his real friendship a rare thing, you realized how he needed an escape and she needed a connection, there was give and take. mrs palfrey was delightful to, strong and curious and romantic.

Sasha said...

It sounds interesting like all of the films you talk about. I like movies like this kind, not super packed full of action or humor, something that relates to life.

hila said...

nikaela marie: thanks! no, I haven't read 'object of beauty', although I keep meaning to. I don't know what I'm waiting for actually ... thanks for the reminder.

julie: many thanks! I rather like Joan Plowright too :)

julie: I understand this feeling all too well - I could do with less of it at the moment.

amy: yeah, it is kind of slow :) and I love that his name is 'friend'.

joanna: hope you like it!

jane flanagan: yes, that quote is spot on for me too.

molly: thank you! I almost mentioned Harold and Maude here - it was the only other similar film I could think of.

chocolatine: I think I just blog about films that I love. I guess that's why there aren't any nasty reviews on my blog :)

ella: this film is oh-so-sweet.

e.: oh thanks! it was a really nice panel.

ameilai: thanks so much!

thea: that list would be endless :) xx

onesilentwinter: you've summarised it perfectly, I totally agree.

sasha: it is a film that you can really relate to - at least for me it was.

Natalie said...

I love this movie! So sweet--I may or may not have cried at the end.

hila said...

I may or may not have cried too.

vegetablej said...


This is a beautiful review that you connected so well to a comforting memory with your friend in England. I have a few such memories from Japan. Strangely enough, I spent the day I heard of my father's death hiding out in a dark theatre at "Message in Bottle" with a Japanese friend. It took me back to Nova Scotia when I couldn't be there and gave me an excuse to cry in public-- something one never sees in Japan. That movie will forever be connected to that day for me.

Perhaps one of the most touching things for me was Ludovic's faithfulness in visiting and reading poetry to the dying Mrs. Palfrey when her own family couldn't be bothered. So touching when he answers as her dead husband. I don't know if such people exist in real life, but I think Elizabeth Taylor must have had a great heart.

I haven't read any of her novels yet but I am starting to do so. There are some available at Project Gutenburg.