From time to time four friends, who just happen to be Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith meet up at an estate in the English countryside to catch up and talk about old times. On the grapevine, film director Roger Michell (My Cousin Rachel, Notting Hill) heard about these meetings and asked the quartet if he could conjure up a documentary out of their next meeting. They agreed and the result is this fine film.
The movie starts with the Dames chatting away in a lovely sunny garden setting but there is no surprise that much of the documentary takes place indoors as the inclement British weather takes hold.
They are mainly on their best behaviour towards the crew except for one exception when Maggie Smith takes umbrage at one of the photographers present, and goes on to tell him that surely he must have taken enough photos, and that’s enough now, thank you very much!
The chat is mostly about their careers, with plenty of great archival footage and pics thrown into the mix. The quartets’ resilience, down to earth manner and sense of humour shine through.
There are some more personal moments. The ladies have a dig at Joan Plowright about her difficult and at times autocratic husband Sir Laurence Olivier and Plowright admits that he wasn’t the easiest man to live with!
Judi Dench makes a personal confession towards the film’s end that she wished that she had not fallen in love so easily during her lifetime.
Michell’s film comes to an end too soon. One would have liked to have basked in their company a bit longer. Still it closes on such a good note with Judi Dench poignantly reading off camera, as the credits roll, Puck’s final speech from ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ with those wonderful lines, “we are such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Such is life!