Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Sheridan Smith
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman is the kind of actor who you would have expected to have moved into directing some time ago - so it does come as a surprise to hear that Quartet is his directorial debut.
Lifelong friends Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay), together with former colleague Cissy (Pauline Collins), are residents of Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers.
Every year on Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday, the residents unite to give a concert to raise funds for their home.
But when Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a former grande dame of the opera fallen on hard times, also Reggie’s ex-wife and the fourth and most celebrated member of their former quartet, moves into the home to everyone’s surprise, the plans for this year’s concert start to unravel.
As old grudges threaten to undermine past glories and theatrical temperaments play havoc with the rehearsal schedule, it becomes apparent that having four of the finest singers in English operatic history under one roof offers no guarantee that the show will go on.
Quartet is a movie that has been made with a real passion and care and it comes through in every frame.
We saw last year that there is a real desire to see our older actors on the big screen in starring roles when The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a huge success - it is hard to understand why more movies like this are not being made more regularly.
And it is the central performances that are the real highlight of this movie as well see Smith, Connolly, Collins and Courtenay on top form.
Smith is simply terrific as Jean, a woman who misses the past and yet is sorry for some of the decisions that she made.
While Jean is quite a cold and, at times, hostile woman Smith plays her with enough warmth that the audiences sympathises with her.
As you would expect Connolly is a major comedy force in this film and he has the laugh out loud moments and the best lines.
The four of them make a fantastic team as they all banter well together - you have to wonder just how much was scripted and how much was add-lib; their interactions is simply fantastic.
We may have been waiting for Hoffman to make his directorial debut and he really has not disappointed as he has delivered a movie that is charming, funny and heart-warming.
He has brought out the best in his incredibly talented cast and he has also brought some real authenticity to the film by using real retired musicians and singers as the residents of the retirement home.
The music that flows through this movie is simply fantastic and it really does bring that extra bit of magic to a great story.
Quartet is one of the first quality movies of 2012 and let hope it is not too long until we see Hoffman behind the camera again.
Quartet is out now
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw