2012 Running time: 98 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3

Synopsis

Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this touching tale of a home for retired opera singers planning a fund-raising concert. Cissy (Pauline Collins), Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and Wilf (Billy Connolly) find their twilight world disturbed with the reappearance of Jean (Maggie Smith), the fourth member of the group and the source of heartbreak for one member of the quartet. Wry and endearing, it's a small movie of many pleasures.

Director

  • Dustin Hoffman

Cast

  • Maggie Smith

  • Billy Connolly

  • Pauline Collins

  • Tom Courtenay

  • Michael Gambon

Review

If Michael Haneke's grim meditation on the ravages of old age in Amour may have been too much, this poignant tale of bitchy geriatrics may provide gentler dramatic balm.

Dustin Hoffman makes an assured if unlikely debut as feature director in a gentle tale of old folk featuring the elite of Britain's ageing acting community.

First among equals is Maggie Smith as taciturn diva Jean, who reluctantly accepts a berth at Beecham House - a retirement home for retired opera singers - but grimly insists on the biggest room.

Her arrival causes a bit of a stir among the other residents, including Cissy (Collins) a kindly old contralto in the first ravages of dementia, and the irascible Wilf (Connolly), a widowed baritone growing old disgracefully.

However, it's sweet-natured tenor Reginald (Courtenay) who's most put out as it's gradually revealed that his life has never moved on after a brief but tempestuous marriage to Jean decades before.

Putting their differences between then, the trio have to persuade the bolshie new arrival to join their quartet for a performance of Verdi's Rigoletto, a recital which will crucially boost Beecham House's dwindling coffers.

Based on Ronald Harwood's play, this touching drama is so targeted at the grey market that it gives off a whiff of Lily of the Valley and mothballs.

But, unlike Amour, it coasts along on an air of optimism, that you're as young as you feel with 75-year-old Hoffman demonstrating as a director that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Michael Gambon has a whale of a time as the resident camp impressario while Sheridan Smith delivers a touching turn as Dr Cogan, the sympathetic manageress.

It may appear undemanding...but there are deeper themes swirling beneath the surface to which Hoffman shows a sympathetic ear in this pleasing debut.