Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this charming, funny and insightful film in which four ageing opera singers are reunited in a specialist retirement home.
Long-term residents Reggie (Tom Courtenay), Wilfred (Billy Connolly) and the ever-forgetful Cecily (Pauline Collins) are regular participants in an annual concert that celebrates Verdi’s birthday (Michael Gambon, in top form, plays the insufferable concert director).
When Reggie’s old beau Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives on the scene, the already tenuous equilibrium of the group is threatened by unresolved historical tensions and Jean’s unforgiving diva-like disposition which sees her reluctant to sing.
Ronald Harwood, the award-winning screenwriter of The Pianist and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, has penned a perceptive and highly entertaining script that illuminates the fragile and enduring play between blustering self-confidence and deep insecurity in the lives of these elderly artists.
Hoffman immediately proves himself as an actors’ director, extracting great performances from the ensemble cast and allowing their real-life iconic status to spill into the film just enough to give an extra-layer of veracity to its themes about ageing and creativity. Finally, Dario Marinelli’s score dovetails effortlessly with the musical heart of the film – ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ – Verdi’s quartet from Rigoletto.