Ladies in Lavender (Charles Dance). 103 minutes. Opens Friday (May 27). For venues and times, see Movies, page 97. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Travellers who never venture beyond their hotel will hate this. True explorers will see what writer/director Dance needs us to: that this movie's joy comes from embracing the local charm in a town most people wouldn't bother visiting.
The scene is 1936 Cornwall, England, a place that seems removed from the world. While the war looms in the distance, these villagers concentrate only on what's going on right around them.
Two of them are sisters Ursula ( Judi Dench ) and Janet ( Maggie Smith ), whose biggest concerns are what to have for dinner and the changing of the tides - until mysterious foreigner Andreas (well-cast Daniel Brühl ) washes up on shore. As the women nurse him to health, they too begin to blossom, particularly spinster Ursula, who develops an almost girlish crush on him. When Andreas's musical talent comes to light, the entire town becomes enraptured, especially beautiful visiting outsider Olga ( Natascha McElhone ).
It's not a perfect film. Writer/director Charles Dance was obviously aiming for a dreamy tone, but the ending feels forced. Yet, like Cornwall, it has undeniable appeal, and you can always count on England's favourite dames, not to mention comic relief Miriam Margolyes as saucy housekeeper Dorcas, to save the day.
If you have patience, it's worth the trip.