Two sisters befriend a mysterious foreigner who washes up on the beach of their 1930s Cornish seaside village.Two sisters befriend a mysterious foreigner who washes up on the beach of their 1930s Cornish seaside village.Two sisters befriend a mysterious foreigner who washes up on the beach of their 1930s Cornish seaside village.
The film follows that of Judi Dench's Ursula, an elderly woman living in a Cornish town with her sister Janet – played by the seemingly ever-consummate Maggie Smith. This pairing live in the sort of place in which local residents are able to recall what people looked like nigh-on forty years ago, the sense of those born in the area not necessarily going anywhere during their lives that is particularly far away from the area, prominent. We open on them with this quaint, blissful sentiment to proceedings; the duo messing about on a beach during a clear summer evening establishing real degrees of closeness and a sense of very little strife, or indeed, issue, currently between them - even at this late stage in either of their lives. Whilst on the beach, Janet appears willing to have a brief paddle in the lapping sea; Ursula's natural reaction to dismiss such an idea, through being afraid of it or whatever, sees her hold back as the sibling makes the proverbial step forward to get involved, thus an instance is an early highlighting of either women's nature and the dynamic of their relationship therein.
Further sentiments of these sisters being as close as they are reside when we realise they share a bedroom housing two single beds, in spite of the fact the house is clearly big enough for the pair of them. Janet's side-table houses a photograph of a younger man dressed as a soldier, and is most probably her husband; then we observe that Ursula's side-table is vacant of such things, inferring a lack of prior masculine presence in her life. As a pairing, we observe Janet dismissing a "populist" radio show Ursula enjoys listening to; Janet spends the free time they have reading, whereas Ursula can only knit and when it comes to starting up their motor-vehicle to go out, Janet must again drive proceedings as she cranks it up and gets it going before taking them both out. Culturally, and in terms of exposure to life and whatnot, Janet appears indelibly more advanced than her sister; brief establishments that go a long way to tee up what will be Ursula's tale of having to come to terms with certain feelings and drive a strand of her own that will go against this established patriarchy.
Where we come to sense few ever get out, and that sense of the whole place being entirely tied in to one another in that community driven way some places are, we sense the film's catalyst arriving in the form of a young man washed up on the nearby shore through Daniel Brühl's Andrea could be quite the occasion. Upon first seeing him, and the consequent interactions thereafter, Janet's busy physical demeanour as someone trying to aid and take care of him is in stark contrast to Ursula's stilted, far more stunned complexion; she reacts as if not having seen one of his kind in her entire life, even doing so a fair time after the initial shock of finding someone with the potentially to be seriously injured or even dead has evaporate. The night before Andrea's inglorious arrival, they turn off their radio with the announcer on the brink of speaking of a severe storm due to hit the area – what they end up with is a more burning, more physical incarnation of this sort, particularly when Natascha McElhone manoeuvres into proceedings. McElhone plays a Russian love rival named Olga whom turns up and reveals herself to paint rather than merely knit; someone whom we enjoy observing at home, barefoot, and blowing smoke into the air from her cigarette as she sports a loose gown and sits comfortably on a chair in an extravagant looking house.
The film gently constructs Ursula's gradual coming to feel for this young man, eventually revealed to be a Polish violinist. The film tiptoes between a fine line separating it from warm hearted drama and out and out tragedy; we really enjoy Dench's acting - her frail and fragile performance, as she plays this vulnerable person exposed to elements she struggles to comprehend, a wondrous performance off the back of playing that of domineering, grizzled women evident in the likes of Die Another Day and The Chronicles of Riddick: Dench flicks from one to the other remarkably. Director Charles Dance, his first and so far his only venture into directing, does a more than ample job in depicting these events and these characters; his film amongst some of the better film-making debuts from the first half of last decade, and worthy of utterance in the same breath as Romanek's One Hour Photo or Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko, in what is a fascinating drama.
- Sep 16, 2011