LADIES IN LAVENDER
Tucked away in a corner of Cornwall in 1936, sisters Janet (Maggie Smith) and Ursula Widdington (Judi Dench) live a peaceful existence, while in Europe ominous clouds gather. One day, they discover the body of Andrea Marowski (Daniel Bruhl), a young Polish man who has been washed up on the pebbles of the isolated beach. They nurse him back to health, and although there are language barriers, they soon discover he is a talented violinist. Visiting artist Olga Danilof (Natascha McElhone), whose brother is a world famous violinist, hears Andrea play and wants to meet him, but Janet and Ursula are not very welcoming. They have become very possessive of this charming and talented young man, who has become part of the family.
Review by Louise Keller:
Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are Ladies in Lavender, two sisters whose lives change when a Polish castaway is swept onto the remote beach below their Cornwall home. Based on a short story by William J. Lock, this is the directing debut of actor Charles Dance, but Dance's script and direction never leads us to the emotional crescendo to which we aspire; however, Dench and Smith deliver beautifully as expected.
The Widdington sisters share their lives with each other, but they are as different as the varieties of fish the local fishermen bring to the market. Janet (Smith) has loved and lost, and is self-assured and decisive. Ursula (Dench) is the epitome of the free-spirited romantic, who has never experienced love. They sleep in the same room at night, are obviously devoted to one another, but are often irritated by the little things in life. They are wearing their nighties as they scurry down to the little beach, and when they find Daniel Bruhl's Andrea, washed up on the shore, they fetch brandy, a stretcher and a doctor - in that order. Dance has created a wonderfully real world for Janet and Ursula, as they sip their tea, listen to the radio and go for walks together. The house is run by the formidable Dorca (Miriam Margolyes, splendid), a stocky no-nonsense type, who is at home with her sleeves rolled up, enthusiastically stuffing a chicken. And when her work is done, she gives the stuffed bird an appreciative slap on the basted sides. While Janet and Ursula are tip-toeing around Andrea, vying for his attention, Dorca puts a potato peeler and bucket of spuds in front of the young man.
We get a good sense of the close-knit community who meet at the local pub and are suspicious of strangers. Rolling green hills, craggy cliffs and startling blue waters make the setting a picturesque one. Andrea quickly becomes part of the household, starts to learn English and delights his hostesses with his virtuoso violin playing. When Natascha McElhone's visiting artist Olga hears Andrea playing the violin, she connects straight away, but there's little that makes the character of Olga real or multi-dimensional.
Dance's script falls down in the telling of the story. It's as though things are happening beyond the world of the Widdington sisters that have no connection with what's real. The emotional heart of the film lies with Dench's Ursula who falls in love with Andrea, and who experiences something she has never experienced before. The film ends as it begins, with two women wearing floral, flowing clothes, strolling along the lonely Cornwall beach.
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LADIES IN LAVENDER (M)
CAST: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Natascha McElhone, Daniel Brühl, Miriam Margolyes, David Warner, Toby Jones
PRODUCER: Nicolas Brow, Elizabeth Karlsen, Nik Powell
DIRECTOR: Charles Dance
SCRIPT: Charles Dance (William J. Lock - story)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Biziou
EDITOR: Michael Parker
MUSIC: Nigel Hess
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Caroline Amies
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 24, 2005