Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ladies in Lavender (2004)

It's been fashionable for some time to lament the dearth of parts for older women in Hollywood. Such does not seem to be the case with more independent films. There are plenty of parts for older women, although Judi Dench gets most of them.

But seriously, folks, if you want to see some fine acting in a charming and subtle story with the bonus of amazing Cornish scenery, watch Ladies in Lavender (2004). The screenplay, by actor/director/producer Charles Dance, is pitch-perfect. Dame Judi and her good friend, Maggie Smith, perform excellently as always, as two elderly spinster sisters whose life is disrupted and enriched when a young man washes up on the shore near their cottage.

I won't recount the plot further, but I do want to mention the important part that the musical score plays in the film. There is actual music-making aplenty, but when music isn't being made on-screen, it is still carefully selected -- for example, scenes of haying are accompanied by a lush arrangement of the harvest hymn "We Plough the Fields and Scatter."

Dance, Dench, and Smith were interviewed for a special feature after the film, from which I learned something interesting. In the original story by William Locke on which the screenplay is based, the sisters were only in their forties; whereas Dench and Smith play ladies in their 60s. (My one small quibble is that this doesn't quite jibe with Maggie Smith's character having lost a fiancé in World War I -- since the film is set in the late 1930s -- unless they were both very late bloomers. Or was I just assuming WWI and it was really the Boer War?) It appears that Dance made this decision both to improve the story (which I think it does) and because he wanted to cast Dench and Smith. It was a good decision, and I highly recommend this film.

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