Starring: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith
Director: Charles Dance
LADIES in Lavender is set in the late 1930s and, in many ways, it could have been made at that time.
Charles Dance, in his first writing and directing work, has adapted a novella about two older sisters living on the coast of Cornwall.
He has been well served by his locations, the wild cliffs and beaches with both calm and pounding storms, and by the re-creation of an English village of the times with its enclosed way of life.
He has also been well served by his cast. The two sisters are played with the expected insight and intensity by Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
Daniel Bruehl (Goodbye Lenin, The Edukators) plays a mysterious young Pole who has been washed up on the beach and whom the sisters take care of, bringing out the maternal in them both, but rousing feelings in the sheltered spinster (Judi Dench) that she had never experienced.
David Warner is the local doctor. Miriam Margolyes steals her scenes as the down-to-earth servant and Natascha McElhone is the elegant painter visiting the village.
Daniel Bruehl is charming as the young man and soon has everyone, including the audience, under his spell. This is enhanced when it emerges that he is a talented violinist (his playing dubbed by Joshua Bell).
Realistically, it is all a bit implausible – his rescuers do not really try to find out who the stranger is or what his background is, although the doctor is not above suggesting he is a spy because he speaks German – and the ending is like a fairytale.
But, for those who can suspend this disbelief and who appreciate the strong leading actresses, this excursion into lavender land is pleasing old-fashioned (quite old-fashioned) entertainment.