Ladies in Lavender
When Polish refugee and violin protégé Andrea (Daniel Brühl) washes ashore in the British coastal town of Cornwall in 1936, he’s nursed back to health by elderly sisters Janet (Maggie Smith) and Ursula (Judi Dench). The sisters amuse themselves by teaching Andrea English and developing emotional attachments half maternal and half romantic to the handsome young man, before facing a threat in the form of the young and beautiful vacationing painter Olga (Natascha McElhone). This sappy bit of British fluff comes our way courtesy of writer/director Charles Dance, better known (and apparently better suited) as an actor. The material requires budding star Brühl (Good Bye Lenin!, The Edukators) to mug his way through a half-mimed nonperformance, and the film’s efforts to channel the charming small-town magic of, say, Local Hero or certain Ealing Studio comedies of the 1940s and ’50s feels false and forced. While Ladies in Lavender will surely appeal to a select demographic of Anglophiles, to others, especially those among us for whom British cinema conjures Mike Leigh or Ken Russell more than tea breaks with crumpets, it’s positively deadly.