Taking place in pre-war England, aging sisters Ursula and Janet live peacefully in their cottage on the shore of Cornwall. One morning following a violent storm, the sisters spot from their garden a nearly-drowned man lying on the beach. They nurse him back to health, and discover that he is Polish. Communicating in broken German while they teach him English, they learn his name is Andrea and that he is a particularly gifted violinist. His boat was on its way to America, where he is headed to look for a better life. It doesn't take long for them to become attached to Andrea, and they dote on him. Other townspeople, however, have their suspicions, especially when he befriends a Russian woman, Olga. Written by
Mains electricity, gas lighting and indoor flush toilets were unlikely to be present in remote village houses in 1936 Cornwall. See more »
[Mr. Penruddocke arrives to play his violin for Andrea]
Wipe your feet.
[she motions him inside]
Just a minute, lift them up.
[he lifts one and shows her the bottom of his shoe]
And the other one.
[he lifts the other]
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Special thanks to the people of Helston, Cornwall and the people of Cadgwith, Cornwall. See more »
When you have a cast headlined by Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, your film is going to do well with their names alone. LADIES IN LAVENDER is saved by these two ladies and their screen presence and the ping-pong-like banter with each other.
The two veteran actresses play Janet (Smith) and Ursula (Dench,) two sisters living a comfortable and mundane life in Cornwall, England in 1936. Janet is a widow and Ursula is a spinster. Their lives are altered when a mysterious young Polish man (Daniel Bruhl)washes up on the beach near their home. They take him in, aid in his recovery from an accident that is never explained, and learn that he is a gifted violinist. Their comfort zone, which is already disturbed, becomes more so when a young German female painter (Natascha McElhone)also shows an interest in the young man.
Like in TEA WITH MUSSOLINI, Maggie Smith's character is the more level-headed and pragmatic, while Judi Dench's Ursula is overly-sensitive and borderline childlike. Miriam Margoyles does a great job as their rough-around-the-edges housekeeper and David Warner, who played "that undertaker of a manservant" in TITANIC, plays an equally creepy character in this film as the town's doctor.
The movie is far from perfect (Ebert and Roeper just gave it "two thumbs down," but it is enjoyable. It is just one little slice in the lives of all of these characters, not giving the viewer much history or much closure at the end. The most poignant sideline is the love that Ursula starts to feel for this young man and, though he is in his 20's and she is in her 70's, you are reminded that one really can't choose who one loves, even when the love is as inconvenient and impossible as this. However, I do agree with the 2 professional critics when they said that Maggie Smith "didn't have a lot to do in this film." This is true. Usually she is just the motherly voice of reason when Dench's character is acting irrational.
When I was at the theater there were many, many senior citizens in the audience. I heard many positive comments from my fellow audience members when the film ended and I think several could relate to the two ladies in the story. As for myself (and in my early 30's) I am still glad I saw it.
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