Projections - Movie Reviews

Ladies in Lavender

Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Bruhl, Natascha McElhone,
Miriam Margolyes and David Warner

Rated: PG-13
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 29, 2005 Released by: Samuel Goldwyn

This quaint British film is much grander than expected thanks in large part to the direction by first-timer Charles Dance, an accomplished veteran actor as seen most recently in Swimming Pool and Gosford Park.

Dance, who wrote the screenplay, modulates a fine rhythm of the camera and story, to make it quite attractive to arthouse audiences who'll find much to like about two aging spinster sisters played by two fine dames, Judi Dench (Die Another Day) and Maggie Smith (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban).

Ursula (Dench) and Janet Widdington (Smith) are quite content with their existence in 1936 Cornwall. But a change comes in the form of Andrea (Daniel Bruhl of Good Bye, Lenin!). The unwell bright Polish/Jewish violinist was on his way to the U.S. when he came ashore near their home and the sisters develop a fondness for him as they make him feel better.

The denizens of the close-knit town exhibit a bit of xenophobia as Ladies works off of their self-centered, subliminated emotional state. This especially comes prevalent when a visiting visual artist (Natascha McElhone of Solaris, Ronin) becomes friendly with Andrea.

You might think that Dance wouldn't be able to keep it all from becoming too precious, sentimental, and self indulgent, but he does it all with a cute, delicate versimilitude. How Dench handles Ursula's feelings for Andrea is surprisingly affecting and the laconic Smith endows a different kind of covalent attraction as the very refined Janet.

Miriam Margolyes definitely is in her wry element playing the ladies' uptight housekeeper and David Warner simmers as an avenging samaritan of a local doctor. The comely McElhone adds a light, almost metaphysical touch to it all. Even Bruhl engages in an offbeat way that compares to a younger Ewan McGregor.

The picture in terms of storytelling and character hardly becomes predictable and the actors at times almost seem to connect on a level past the mundane. Dance is able to manifest the dark political part with a crushing heartbreak, as the witty and compassionate is evened out with the bittersweet. A period piece is set into motion strikingly off of its pictoral setting and a motif of a level of commitment to the unfamiliar. Dench and Smith make this gently gorgeous, beautifully scored film one to savor, especially in the moving climax when it comes to Ursula and the violinist she adores.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Ladies in Lavender       B       B

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