Have you heard about the movie, “Let Them All Talk?” It stars the Cunard ship, Queen Mary 2. It also stars Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest. It was made in 2020. If you have ever wondered what it is like to sail on a transatlantic crossing or have tried to explain to friends why you sail with Cunard, this is your movie.
You never heard of it? That is understandable. The film was filmed aboard an actual crossing in 2019 and set to release in 2020, just in time to catch the start of the pandemic and the Covid lockdowns. I do not think it was never shown in theaters because they were dark. It was released on HBO Max. I have not seen it available on DVD. My wife and I found it on Amazon Prime ($3.99). It can also be rented on through Redbox.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The plot is not that great. Meryl Streep plays a famous writer who does not fly but has won an award in England. Someone at her publishing firm mentions “There is this boat that sails across the Atlantic…” They “float” the idea of her fame qualifying her as a guest lecturer during the seven-night crossing. She asks: “How many friends can I bring?” She brings two girlfriends from college (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest plus a younger nephew. A couple of other characters connected to the writer also book passage.
Let’s leave the plot there because the ship is the star. The photography is spectacular. You see parts of the ship us frequent passengers never see.
Boarding and departure. The ship sails from New York. The film presents an idealized version of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The ship sails under the Verrazano Bridge as it heads out to open sea.
The staterooms. As the celebrity guest, Meryl Streep’s character is booked into the grandest of the Queens Grill staterooms, the one with the spiral staircase. It is unclear where her two girlfriends are staying, in Grill suites or in the Britannia class cabins representing about 87% of the ship. At least one or two minor characters have inside cabins. These are well represented on screen and are elegant in their own way.
Cocktail bars. There is a camera angle shot over an iced bottle of champagne as Meryl Streep is in her suite. The characters gather for drinks in the Commodore Club, the large lounge below the command bridge at the front of the ship.
Dining onboard. It would appear the main characters dined at a table of four in the Queens Grill. (The one time we have seen this space was during the lifeboat drill, years ago.) It was unclear if they were in the Queens Grill or another dining room because the white glove service, we have experienced in the Britannia dining room appeared to be the same in the film! They did film scenes in the Britannia Dining Room (the main dining room) although the characters are walking through an empty room.
Gala evenings. This is a big part of the Cunard experience. The film showed one of the main characters turning towards the camera wearing a Venetian mask. Clearly, she was headed to the Venetian masked ball, one of several themes that might be chosen on your crossing. They also filmed the dancing that takes place on the gala nights.
Afternoon tea. Cunard offers at least three versions. The one everyone is familiar with is the tea service in the Queens Room, billed as the largest ballroom at sea. It happens every sea day during your crossing and is included in your fare. In other scene, the lead characters are enjoying the Champagne Tea, basically the same finger sandwiches and pastries with the addition of French champagne, for an additional charge. Some of the characters would have tea (or possibly breakfast) in Meryl Streep’s suite.
Insights lectures. One of the features making Cunard voyages unique are the lectures given during the voyage. There are usually three or four speakers who present two or three times during the voyage. Meryl Streep, in her character as a writer, was one presenter. Predictably, every seat in the audience was filmed. As a I recall, there was another writer, this one the author of several popular mysteries, also on the crossing. Presumably he delivered a lecture too.
Interaction with fellow passengers. This is something that makes these voyages special for me. My wife and I leave each voyage having made at least one or two new friends. In the film, one of the writer’s friends, played by Dianne Wiest, becomes friends with the mystery writer who encourages her in her writing and offers to help.
Relaxing Indoors at Sea. My wife’s favorite part of the ship is the library, also forward overlooking the bow. Several scenes were filmed in the library. Friends have often commented they like the rows of games tables lining the corridors outside the Royal Court Theater. They filmed scenes of the main characters playing board games like scrabble.
Relaxing on Deck. The film was shot in perfect weather. The characters are often sitting around a table with deck chairs in the background, swimming in the pool near the two whirlpool tubs or strolling on deck. The firm delivers a great representation of why some people (like me) find seven days and nights at sea to be incredibly relaxing.
Additional facilities. Candice Bergen, whose character sells lingerie in a Texas department store is in different economic circumstances and tries to get her spa credit converted into cash. She cannot but can apply the value of one treatment towards another treatment. Two of the younger, minor characters visit the planetarium onboard. (The only one at sea.) Another scene is shop in the ship’s onboard casino, which looked far busier than I’ve ever seen it.
Below decks. This is an aspect of the ship that was completely new to me. Scenes took you into the white painted metal corridors used by the crew and off limits to passengers. The scale of the kitchens is breathtaking. The cleanliness throughout is very obvious. When a character wanders into the “Crew Only” section and is quickly spotted by an officer, she isn’t chased away, but asked “Where is it you would like to go, Madame” and then walked to her destination.
The experience the film delivers is the same one you (or a friend) would get regardless of the stateroom category you booked. True, Meryl Streep had a large suite, but anyone seeing this film and comparing it to the actual onboard experience would do so very favorably.
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Cover photo: Cunard QM2 Britannia entrance