Ladies In Lavender

**1/2

Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

The title should be enough to ring warning bells and give an inkling as to the sentimentality and quaint old world charm that oozes from this period piece, set in Cornwall on the eve of World War Two. The "oo-arrr" accents abound, as do fishermen, and people eat pasties and stargazer pie, a strange pastry concoction with fishes' heads poking out.

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench play sisters Janet (widowed) and Ursula (spinster), whose pleasant country cottage existence is unsettled when they find a young man (Daniel Brühl) shipwrecked on the beach below the house. Upstanding Christian women that they are, they take him in and nurse him back to health and discover that he's Polish, his name is Andrea Marowski and he's something of a virtuoso violinist. He's also a bit of a looker - well, your gran would like him, anyway.

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Cue Natascha McElhone, as Olga Daniloff, seductive bohemienne of indeterminate nationality on a "painting holiday" in the village. Hearing the dulcet tones of Andrea's violin coming from the sisters' house, she determines to befriend him and introduce him to her brother Boris, an internationally renowned musician. In the meantime, Ursula has become infatuated with Andrea, mourning lost youth and lost opportunities, and Janet has also become quite attached to the guest, though not to the same extent. The sisters do their utmost to prevent Andrea from discovering Olga's connections and her plans for him, but how long will they be able to keep him?

Somewhere in this film, there is a valid point about the loneliness and unrequited love of elderly women in a time and place where people generally just accepted their lot and led a fairly predetermined life. Rather than exploring it, director Charles Dance dumps it on the doorstep with a handful of cliches for good measure. Smith and Dench offer a little redemption with the assured acting we've come to expect from them, but I couldn't help wishing that they had been given more to work with. The same goes for the rest of the cast: perfectly capable, but nothing that jumps out and grabs you.

Perhaps, that's the point. If you can tolerate the soft focus and picture postcard shots in return for a pleasant, feelgood movie, by all means go see it. If you like your drama with a bit more bite, well, the title will probably have put you off before you even read this review.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2004
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Ladies In Lavender packshot
Two elderly sisters befriend a shipwrecked foreigner.
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Director: Charles Dance

Writer: Charles Dance, based on a short story by William J Locke

Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Natascha McElhone, Daniel Bruhl, Miriam Margolyes, David Warner, Clive Russell, Richard Pears, Toby Jones

Year: 2004

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK

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Calendar Girls
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