Film review: Quartet (12A)

Published: 13 Jan 2013 13:300 comments

Making a directorial debut at 75 years old is quite an achievement and a further accolade for Dustin Hoffman is to capture something of the essence of Englishness in his film Quartet. The film tells the story of former musicians and opera singers living out their days in the elegant surroundings of retirement home Beecham House.

POIGNANT AND UPLIFTING: Dame Maggie Smith and Pauline Collins in Quartet.

Music to the ears, a delight to the eyes and, if you have heart strings, be prepared for them to be tugged. With poignant, amusing and uplifting moments, the film meanders at a gentle pace which builds in momentum to a full-throttle finale.

Quartet has an impressive cast, with Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins comprising the main dramatis personae. Significant others are Sheridan Smith, who plays the attractive in-house doctor, and Michael Gambon.

Every year on Verdi's birthday, the residents of Beecham House come together to give a concert to raise funds for their home, but old personal scores and insecurities threaten to undermine the rehearsal schedule (though there is never any doubt that the show will go on).

It is a sensitive, wry and upbeat film which demonstrates that we all fare a little better with a soupçon of kindness, understanding and a common goal.

Also appearing in the heart-warming tale is 76-year-old Pangbourne resident Patricia Loveland, who began acting at aged 60, and plays the retirement home's pianist, Letitia. The former midwife said: "I am used to being on a film set but never with Dustin Hoffman! I was overawed by it all. It was magic."

Quartet was filmed exclusively in and around the picturesque historic 85-acre estate of Hedsor House and the adjacent church, St Nicholas'. The screenplay is by Sir Ronald Harwood and the film was financed by BBC Films, DCM Productions and Decca.

This and next month, Hedsor House is offering visitors the chance to discover the principal rooms and areas depicted in Quartet, including the domed Grand Hall, the ballroom, central staircase, and the boudoir, as well as the stunning grounds and gardens. Also open will be one of the outbuildings, used by the American Air Force during the Cold War as a communication hub, which became the film's production HQ. Visitors will learn about the house, which has links back to 1166, and its notable visitors which have included royalty, film stars

and politicians.

The viewing days are on Sunday, January 20, and Sunday, February 17, from 11am to 4pm. Visitors are asked to make a minimum donation of £8 for adults and £4 for children under 16, while youngsters under five go free. Profits will go to Hedsor Church - St Nicholas'. Numbers are limited and advance booking is essential.

Hedsor House is owned by the Shephard family and was given to the current owner's mother as a wedding present in 1932. It is run by Alexander Shephard and his sons Nick, Mark and Hamish as an award-winning venue for weddings, events and filming. Visit www.hedsor.com/opendays for more.

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