If the point-blank treatment of old age and mortality in this year’s French arthouse hit Amour makes you nervous, here’s the cuddly British version – with songs. Quartet has been adapted by screenwriter Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) from his own 1999 play, and essentially it’s a country-house, putting-on-a-play drama. Only the house is a care home for retired actors and singers, and the stumbling blocks to first-night glory are the side-effects of ageing. The gentle conundrum is whether four residents of Beecham House – Jean (Maggie Smith, pictured left), Wilf (Billy Connolly), Cissy (Pauline Collins, pictured right) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay) – will overcome their problems to perform the quartet from Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ at a benefit gig for their home. It’s a light, fruity film – complete with Michael Gambon flitting around in a silk dressing gown and fez. Dustin Hoffman, directing for the first time, draws endearing performances from his cast, and a host of supporting actors played by singers and musicians grounds its more farcical and rarefied elements in white-haired reality.
Words by Dave Calhoun