Ladies in Lavender

They saved a stranger from the sea
and in return he stole their hearts.

Based on a short story by William J. Locke, two spinster sisters, Ursula and Janet (Judi Dench and Maggie Smith), live in an old house by the sea in 1930s Cornwall, England. Their pleasant but uneventful routine of beach walks, reading, sewing, and tea time is interrupted when Andreas, a handsome young Polish violinist (Daniel Bruhl, from GOODBYE, LENIN!) washes ashore, barely alive. The girls nurse him back to health and for the never-married Ursula it's a case of first love far too late in life. She helps him overcome the language barrier, only to possibly lose him to a younger woman, the gorgeous visiting artist (Natasha McElhone) who recognizes his musical talent and is in a situation to help him. It's a simple story, though a perfect showcase for the mastery of Dench and Smith, two of the greatest thespians of all time (though Miriam Margolyes steals many scenes as the no-nonsense housekeeper). The director, Charles Dance, is a major British actor himself, thus his grasp of the myriad subtleties of the art is spot-on here in his directorial debut. Period detail is also of key importance, and cinematographer Peter Biziou captures the invitingly homey yet windswept otherness of the locale and time. Music is also a key component here, and the violin passages attributed to Andreas are stunningly emotional. [synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes]

Cadgwith, Cornwall

Judi Dench speaking of Charles Dance asking her to be in Ladies in Lavender...
He's a very good actor and he wanted to make a film and had the chance to make a film. I said yes because I'm notorious for not reading scripts....which I don't, I don't read scripts. It's entirely to do with who's asked me and if they think I can do it and who's going to be in it. It's only to do with that. And what a chance with my old friend Mags!

Maggie Smith: She and I have sort of a shorthand together. We understand each other. We sort of know which way they're going to go. I think it's just a great ease.

Judi: We know each other so, the sisterly thing, you know, you don't have to work for that. If you're friends, that will show anyway.

Charles Dance also discusses how he had them in mind from the first time he read the book, even though the characters in the book are in their 40's, and the Dames are in their 70's. He felt the age was immaterial.

Latest Posts