Dustin Hoffman has had a varied and distinguished career in acting since the ‘60s, and now has turned his talents to directing for the first time with Quartet.
The 75-year-old star has chosen a pleasant tale of growing old with grace and a love for life in a film set in Beecham House, a grand home for retired musicians.
The story centres on three old friends and colleagues Wilf (Billy Connolly), Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and Cissy (Pauline Collins), who were renowned for the quartet they were part of in their heyday.
The film opens as the distinguished residents of the retirement home are getting ready for their annual Verdi gala to raise funds to keep the establishment from closing down.
Preparations are disrupted with a surprising new arrival – prima donna Jean (Maggie Grace), Reginald’s old flame and the most respected opera singer of her time.
It becomes clear that emotions are still running high between Reginald and haughty Jean, who point blank refuses to sing in the quartet for the fundraising concert.
The film follows the struggle to reunite the quartet and repair old relationships, while exploring the challenges of growing old and retaining a sense of vigour and hope.
Hoffman has chosen not to dwell on the negative side of ageing, instead portraying the inhabitants of the retirement home as full of life and optimism. More sombre aspects, like Cissy’s worsening Alzheimer’s, are just touched on, while one of the most poignant scenes is Jean standing in her empty town apartment waiting to be moved into the home.
Performances across the board are excellent, with Connolly providing much of the comic relief in the film as the flirtatious and wildly inappropriate Wilf. Rising English star Sheridan Smith puts in a stellar performance as Dr Lucy Cogan, and one of the film’s most touching moments comes from her speech at the gala.
The film is also peppered with real life musical veterans, lending it a wonderful sense of realism.
The opulent Beecham House and the surrounding English countryside is a beautiful setting for the proceedings, giving the production a lush, enchanting feel.
Although dramatic tension is severely lacking in Quartet, Hoffman has created an utterly charming and moving portrait of growing old.