It's got Maggie Smith in it, of course we love it.
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Quartet is Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut and one that'll have you crossing your fingers, hoping he goes on to produce plenty more cinematic treats of this quality. He tells the story of Beecham House, a retirement home for musicians and its many theatrical, elderly residents. In amongst them is forgetful, loveable Cissy (Pauline Collins), flirtatious comic relief, Wilf (Billy Connolly), stubborn yet wise Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and a delicate diva, Jean (Maggie Smith), who all together form - you guessed it! - the Quartet. They must hold a special concert each year to help secure funding for the home, but this is the first time they've all been asked to come together and sing as a foursome. The past is dug up, friendships are explored and mistakes are made in the lead up to the big finale.
But we're not interested in the big finale - the magic here is in the journey! A fab cast filled with the familiar faces of top notch British actors do their very best to ensure they realistically, and with wit, depict the different ways in which we can all grow old. Hoffman allows us to see each character grow, taking a moment to get to know everyone involved, and then it's straight on into the tear-jerker moments. They're not forced - the little tragedies all come pretty naturally because the story is so wonderfully character-led. For example, Cissy's memory is 'getting worse' as she's clearly suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease and while her predicament provides many comic moments, Collins also does a fantastic job of offering a saddening portrayal of how the illness can effect the day to day runnings of the human mind and, indeed, the human heart. Connolly shines as an example of how growing old is tough and unforgiving but also, if you learn to roll with it, how it can be enjoyable in places.
Smith and Courtenay are at the centre of attention, however, and go to show that you're never too old to make the most of your talent, or to forgive and forget. You'll leave thinking about your life and what's to come, but without having been preached at and most importantly, while also having been able to giggle. Quartet is a slice of these people's lives and that's what we have the pleasure of sitting down and watching. Something real, filled with real people. No matter how old or how young you may be, it is without a doubt one of the most fulfilling movies you'll see next year.
Quartet is released in the UK on the 1st January 2013.
Words: Andrew Hodges