Quartet

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(2012) ★★½

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Ronald Harwood’s play about four aged opera singers, residents at a musicians’ retirement home, preparing for a fund-raising gala performance. Pauline Collins is sweetly distracted, Billy Connolly is up for the next Carry On revival, and Maggie Smith can play prickly but bruised divas in her sleep: “I’ve not yet entered second childhood, please don’t talk to me as if I have.” But it’s Tom Courtenay, rising above the theatrical mulch by digging into reservoirs of memory and regret, who gives the most dignified and affecting performance. There are a couple of missteps (especially an embarrassing scene comparing opera with rap) but the notes are mostly hit. It’s certainly preferable to the excessively maudlin machinations of Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp in Song for Marion, made the same year. There’s more of Dame Maggie’s late-blooming magic to savour in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Film 4 on Tuesday at 9pm.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 94min