Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, is a light-hearted look at old age, and sure to draw comparisons with last year’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Quartet is slightly superior, with Maggie Smith far more in her element as a Dowager Countess-esque former opera-singer who arrives at a retirement home for elderly musicians, encountering old friends, including a none-too-happy ex-husband (Tom Courtenay). As she learns to stop looking down on everyone else, she connects with her fellow retirees and her old flame, the whole thing culminating in a triumphant concert.
Though the concert preparations overwhelm some of the more interesting sub-plots in the second half of the film, this is nonetheless a heart-warming, if slightly frothy, tale of how it is never too late to embrace life. The glittering British cast – which includes Sheridan Smith, Michael Gambon and an irrepressible Billy Connolly as the ageing lothario of the group – helps lift the film above the fairly average plotline, and the beautiful setting (it was filmed at Hedsor House) makes it very easy on the eyes. It is also buoyed by a number of amusing moments and the fact that it addresses old age in an optimistic and dignified manner, lending it a certain endearing charm.
While Quartet is essentially a cosy and light-hearted way to while away an hour-and-a-half, it is undoubtedly refreshing to see an older couple take the lead in a love story, and the ensemble cast is a treat to watch.