The film “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” is one of my all-time favorite movies, adapted to the screen from a 1971 novel of the same name written by author Elizabeth Taylor.  I could relate so well to this film, as the memory references of the main character were startlingly familiar to me.  More on that later.


Joan PlowrightCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                          Joan Plowright - Wikimedia


Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) was recently widowed and did not wish to live with her daughter.  The alternative was to live independently in a hotel called the Claremont, which served meals to the residents and provided an adequate room, and companions if one so wished.  Americans are not familiar with an arrangement such as this, but apparently these accommodations are prevalent in England.

Having mentioned to her dinner companions that her grandson Desmond lived in London and worked in the Archives at the British Museum, Mrs. Paltrey was somewhat embarrassed that she was not able to get hold of Desmond to join her for dinner some evening, even though she had left him a message.

Mrs. Paltrey Had a Fall

She was on her way to taking a stroll when one of the residents, Mrs. Arbuthnot, asked her to pick up a book at the library that had been set aside for her.  It happened to be “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” somewhat scandalous among the older set.  On her return, Mrs. Paltrey took a fall on the sidewalk and was rescued by a young man who had a basement apartment in the spot where she fell.  He invited her in to his place to rest and have a cup of tea while he looked at her knee and cleaned it off.  He said his name was Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend) and mentioned that they had something in common; they both had strange names.


Rupert FriendCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                             Rupert Friend - Wikimedia

Mrs. Paltrey Makes a New Friend

Ludo, as he was called, told Mrs. Palfrey that he was a writer, but also made money by being a busker; that is, a person who sings and plays on the street for money.  And no, he hadn’t had anything published yet.  Mrs. Palfrey invited Ludo to have dinner with her at the Claremont to repay him for his kindness.

When she returned to the Claremont, she mentioned to those in the dining room that she was having a visitor for dinner on Sunday.  They all thought that her grandson Desmond was finally going to show up, and they looked forward to seeing him.

Ludo Agrees to the Plan

Mrs. Paltrey stopped by Ludo’s apartment that week.  She had purchased a dress shirt for him, and explained that her companions believed that her grandson Desmond was coming for dinner on Sunday.  Ludo said that he could certainly pretend to be her grandson.  She told him that her grandson always called her Sasa, which was fine with Ludo.

On Sunday, Ludo came to the Claremont dressed nicely in his new shirt and a suit coat, and his politeness impressed everyone in the dining room.  They wanted to know if he was enjoying his job at the Archives.  At their table, they talked about their favorite poets.  Mrs. Paltrey like Wordsworth, and Ludo liked William Blake, which was a coincidence because Mrs. Paltrey’s husband Arthur liked William Blake.

                                                              Red London BusCredit: Wikimedia Commons 

                                                                        London Red Bus                                                                                                                                                    Wikimedia

Mrs. Paltrey Shares Stories with Ludo

Ludo said to her “What are you doing here?  You don’t seem to belong.  I would imagine you traveling around the world.”  “I did all that,” she said, “when Arthur was alive.”  She said that one of the residents had made the remark “We’re Not Allowed to Die Here.”  Ludo asked her to share with him the things that mattered to her.  He wanted to hear all of it.  When he returned to his apartment, he wrote about his experience at the Claremont.

The next day, her actual grandson Desmond came in and was told that Mrs. Paltrey was not there.  When asked about him, Mrs. Paltrey said it was her accountant.  Mr. Osborne, one of the few male guests in the dining room, asked her if she would accompany him to Ladies Night at the Masonic Hall.  She said she would love to go.

Mrs. Paltrey Receives a Proposal

They had a lovely dinner at the Masonic Hall, but Mr. Osborne imbibed a little too much.  They sat outside on a bench afterwards, and Mr. Osborne proposed marriage to Mrs. Paltrey, saying that he wasn’t wealthy but that he could give a woman a life that she would deserve.  He had a cottage by the lake.  They would have a housekeeper, and they could spend their time traveling.  Mrs. Paltrey was grateful for his offer, but she said she would have to refuse.  She had been happily married, but wanted to spend the rest of her life free and independent.  They took a taxi back to the Claremont.

Ludo Cooks Dinner for Mrs. Paltrey

Ludo invited Mrs. Paltrey to come to his apartment where he would cook dinner for her.  He told her that he had not been successful in the relationship department.  He had not seen his mother in several months.  His mother was disappointed in him.  She had raised him alone when her husband died.

They had a nice dinner, and Ludo wanted Mrs. Paltrey to tell him more about her life.  He asked what her favorite movie was.  Without hesitation, she said that it was “Brief Encounter.”  It was the movie she saw on her first date with her husband Arthur.  I was shocked, because “Brief Encounter” was also one of my very favorite movies.  I have probably seen it four times, and I also saw it as a play on Broadway a few years ago.  Ludo also asked Mrs. Paltrey what her favorite song was.  She said he was probably too young to remember it, but her favorite song was “For All We Know.”  Well, that floored me once again, because that song was chosen by my college class way back in the 50’s as our class song.  It holds great memories for me.  Ludo not only remembered the song, he sang it for Mrs. Paltrey, getting all the words right also.

                                      Carnfort Station ClockCredit: Wikimedia Commons                                                                                        Carnfort Station Clock - "Brief Encounter"                                                                                             Wikimedia                                                 

A Visit with Ludo’s Mother

Ludo took Mrs. Paltrey to visit his mother, which was an awkward situation.  Mrs. Paltry told Mrs. Meyer that her son was a man of many talents, and she was grateful to him for the kindness he showed her when she had a bad fall.  Ludo’s mother said it was hard raising him when her husband died, but she did everything she could for him.

A Chance Encounter

Ludo went to a music store to see if he could find a CD of the movie “Brief Encounter.”  A young girl had just picked up the last copy of it.  They spoke, and when Ludo said he did not have a record player, she invited him to her place to watch the movie.  They became good friends, which they attributed to Mrs. Paltrey and her suggestion of that film.  Ludo said to Mrs. Paltrey “What should I do so that Gwendolyn will not be jealous of you?”  She answered “I’ll show her my birth certificate.”

Mrs. Paltrey is Hospitalized

Mrs. Paltrey had another bad fall outside of the Claremont, and had to be hospitalized.  Ludo spent hours with her, and one day brought with him his manuscript entitled “We’re Not Allowed to Die Here,” based on all the wonderful stories Mrs. Paltrey told him about her life.  Sadly, the day he brought the manuscript, she had just passed away, and never did get to see it.

This is a film you do not want to miss.  I loved it so much.  The two main characters had so much chemistry between them, an unusual occurrence for people who are probably 45 years apart in age.   


Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (Virago Modern Classics)
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(price as of May 29, 2016)