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Ladies in Lavender

September 5, 2010

Ladies in Lavender (2004)
Director: Charles Dance
Actors: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Brühl

6lavender.jpg (300×196)

Synopsis: Two elderly Cornwall sisters, Janet and Ursula (Judi Dench and Maggie Smith), become enchanted by a mysterious man who washes up on their shore (Daniel Brühl).

Review: This movie is a real love letter to the past – not just in terms of the obvious (the characters and 1930s setting) but in its overall spirit and ethos. There is a real intentional sweetness and whimsy to its sepia-tinted recreation of pre-war Cornwall, but director Charles Dance never allows the material to straddle into ‘twee’ territory, helped in part by the superb central turns from the Dench-Smith double-act, but also in his own literate, sensitively handled direction.

Dance’s expert use of old-fashioned intertitles, slow motion and a wonderful closing fade articulates perfectly the seamless passing of time in the narrative, and functions as emblem for a film that’s all about nostalgia and an idea of communal civility now gone. The plot is also ingeniously developed, never lapsing into sensationalism, and even the one or two potentially schematic conflicts (the jealous boyfriend and the gossiping doctor) are rightly allowed to fade quietly from view – much like Dench and Smith themselves at the story’s end. (December 2005)

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