Courtenay is actually willing to take the further step as in his initial reactions to see her and in his repeated refusals to even speak to her for a more than a few words. Courtenay in these moments does not sweeten this by any mean offering some real anguish within his harsh turns away, and years of holding a grudge in his cold refusals. Reg's attitude comes from Jean having cheated on him many years ago and Courtenay actually conveys that sense of betrayal in these interactions. He grants them though, even in the initial reaction, more complexity than that. In that Courtenay is able to express the sort of particular sort of damage within Reg's view. As Courtenay expresses the past affection within the current bitterness. Courtenay attempts to actually convey the years of holding this in through these scenes something that is sorely lacking in the other problems depicted by most of the other cast members which are boiled down to basically a cutesy eccentricity.
The film though perhaps wish to get their leads in on the goofiness of the elements outside of them, Courtenay in a scene where Reg is trying to teach opera to hip teenagers. Courtenay though manages to keep his dignity intact with this scene, and even offer a bit of dignity to the film in the process. Courtenay does this by offering just the right quiet passion in his delivery as he speaks of the power of opera, and as well even makes the right mild curiosity not seem ridiculous when the conversation turns to rap. The same goes for a scene where Reg curses out one of the employees of the retirement home which is all set up to be overly cloying but Courtenay actually delivers the insults with enough venom to keep from being so. Courtenay strives to find some reality in the situation and develop a character with Reg not just a set of quirks of an older person. Courtenay succeeds in this even when the film battles him at every turn.
The most severe challenge in this regard is perhaps in Reg's forgiveness of Jean which feels sort of rushed. It isn't quite dealt with as one would imagine it should be either, they just kind of work through it. This is all done rather quickly with little to no major problems. Courtenay to his credit once again though does make it work though by in those cold scenes suggesting again that underlying affection and just slowly showing that comes out again. He makes it a natural progression mainly through his performance and through his chemistry with Smith which is endearing enough. The film though is in a rush to get to his disappointing ending, where obviously they shouldn't have made it about opera singers. Courtenay's performance here made me wish he had given a part with more depth because he does find depth in what is a paper thin role. He does his best to bring the best out of the material. I wish he was in a better film but I will say he made this a better film through his performance.