After dedicating one's entire life to a single pursuit, it can be difficult to walk away. But if lucky, you can surround yourself with like-minded people and engage in your passion as long as physically possible. In Quartet
, at the Home for Retired Musicians, a group of seniors do exactly that.
In celebration of the composer Verdi's birthday, the residents are putting on a gala performance. However, more than just an excuse to exercise their instruments, the proceeds of the production are needed to fund the retirement home. Comprised of well-known musicians and singers, they're sure to draw a crowd. But it may not be enough. Then a new resident arrives, reuniting the acclaimed quartet that stunned audiences with their rendition of Rigoletto. But a heart broken years earlier could prevent the group from forming the much needed headline act for the gala.
In a word, this film is sweet. There is humour and joy throughout the whole picture. Even the challenges of old age are approached lightheartedly rather than regretfully. Cissy's (Pauline Collins) worsening Alzheimer’s is simply a part of who she is – an aspect to which her friends have adapted, reminding her and caring for her when necessary. Moreover, her bubbly, girlish personality makes it easy to overlook her illness. Wilf (Billy Connolly) uses his stroke as an excuse to speak without a filter, making hilarious comments and flirtatious advances to every woman he meets.
The entire narrative and its characters are driven by music. Few scenes occur without some form of a soundtrack. The cast of actors is rounded out by many professional musicians and opera singers, relishing an on screen opportunity to showcase their talents once more. And it pays off, resulting in wonderful rehearsal scenes and stage acts.
Actor Dustin Hoffman steps behind the camera for the first (credited) time to direct the film and he does a fantastic job with the adapted play. Everything plays out perfectly on the screen through a variety of angles. Where there is no dialogue, his experience allows the actors to act rather than intrude on the scene with fancy camerawork.
All of the actors are very spirited, displaying an infectious passion for their craft. Connolly never fails to get a laugh, though he is also and often sincere when interacting with his friends. Maggie Smith is stern, but her affection for her old friends is easily seen in her eyes. Michael Gambon is the stereotypical stage director Cedric (with a long "e"), constantly barking orders and criticisms at the artists.
This is a really lovely movie that probably won't win any awards, but will definitely capture audiences' hearts.
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Starring: Maggie Smith
, Michael Gambon
and Billy Connolly