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LADIES IN LAVENDER
USA: Roadside Attractions
UK: Entertainment Film Distributors
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Natascha McElhone, Daniel Bruhl, Miriam Margolyes, David Warner, Toby Jones, Jack Callow, Gregor Henderson-Begg, Tom Hill, Freddie Jones, Ian Marshall, Richard Pears, Clive Russell, Trevor Ray, John Boswell, Joanna Dickens, Geoffrey Bayldon, Timothy Bateson, Rebecca Hulbert, Finty Williams, Roger Booth, Jimmy Yuill, Peter Cellier, Alan Cox, Joshua Bell
Director: Charles Dance
USA & UK: 104 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language
UK Certificate: 12A contains one use of strong language
USA Release Date: 29 April 2005
UK Release Date: 12 November 2004
Cornwall, 1936: Despite the great events about to unfold in Europe, Cornwall remains as ever a timeless place rarely moved by life in the outside world. Farmers and fishermen pay heed to the weather and shipping forecasts, but precious little else that the wireless brings them. Strangers are seldom made to feel welcome and even outsiders are never fully welcomed into the tightly knit atmosphere of village life.
The discovery of a castaway on the beach below their house does however, disrupt the peaceful lives of sisters Janet (Maggie Smith) and Ursula Widdington (Judi Dench) and the community in which they live.
Swept overboard from a ship on its way from mainland Europe to America, Andrea Marowski's (Daniel Bruhl) intention was to make a new life for himself in New York far from the soon to be war-torn Europe, and especially the anti-Semitic feeling that was becoming an increasing threat to the young Jewish musician from Krakow. His survival would seem nothing short of a miracle for both himself and the Widdington sisters. With the help of the local doctor they nurse him back to health.
During the coming weeks, despite the inevitable language barrier, Janet and Ursula discover a few details about Andreas' past, not least his talent as a musician. The presence in their house of a beautiful young man has, for a variety of reasons, an unsettling effect on both sisters - especially Ursula. Feelings that have either never been provoked or have lain dormant for years are all too willingly allowed to stir. When it would seem that Andrea could become a permanent fixture in their lives, someone else comes along to take an interest in both him and his musical talent...
Olga Danilof (Natascha McElhone), sister of a world famous violinist Boris Danilof, is on a painting holiday in Cornwall and she hears Andrea playing his violin whilst walking by Ursula and Janet's cliff-top home. Despite being given short shrift by the sisters, Olga manages to meet Andrea. During their brief time together, she realizes the potential of his talent and plans to contact her brother with a view to him taking this young prodigy under his wing.
Olga sends a letter to Ursula and Janet introducing herself and her intentions. Fearful of losing Andrea, the sisters hide the letter and mention nothing of Olga's brother being the maestro Danilof.
Despite having a Polish father, neither Olga or her brother speak Polish as their father thought it better for them to learn the language of their English mother. Olga is however able to converse in German. With the aid of a German grammar book, Ursula and Janet have themselves had a little success in communicating with their young charge, but not nearly as much as Olga.
During the brief summer weeks, Andrea is made as welcome in the little community as its custom will allow, and the presence of a talented young foreigner becomes something of a novelty to them. Doctor Mead however has an aversion to anyone not Anglo-Saxon unless they come in the shape of an attractive, single woman like Olga Danilof. His ham-fisted attempts at charming his way into her affections are continually rebuffed by Olga and it eventually becomes apparent that if her interest is to be in anyone, it will be Andrea. Doctor Mead's affront quickly manifests itself in suspicions of espionage between the two German-speaking strangers. In view of events in Europe at the time, he considers it important to bring this to the attention of the local constabulary. A brief preliminary investigation by Constable Timmins is rapidly brought to an end by Janet's abrupt dismissal of such a preposterous idea.
However, the imminent arrival of Boris during a brief stopover in London, gives Olga the opportunity to see Andrea achieve his potential on the concert stage. As Boris is only to be in London for a mere twenty-four hours, she insists that Andrea leaves with her by the lunchtime train that day. There's no time to either explain or write to his two ladies
When Andrea fails to return that evening, the sisters make enquiries and discover that he and Olga were seen boarding a train for London. It's a sudden and shocking end to their association with him and a devastating loss to Ursula.
Time passes and they settle back into their quiet lives.
With the arrival of winter comes a package from London. It contains a letter from Andrea and a painting of him by Olga Danilof. In the letter he explains his sudden departure and tells them he's going to be giving a concert in London that is to be broadcast by the BBC.
On the date announced for the broadcast, the sisters invite as many people from the village as they can fit into their small sitting room. The wireless is switched on and Andrea and his glorious music are brought back into the villagers' lives.
Unknown to Andrea the sisters decide to go to London to join the audience when the concert is transmitted. He doesn't see them until they push their way through the crowd of well wishers into his dressing room. Their emotionally charged reunion is cut short when Andrea is encouraged to receive the compliments of the great Sir Thomas Beecham, and then a succession of other worthies. As he disappears further and further away from them, they decide to leave without saying goodbye. Ursula and Janet walk down the long corridor and out of his new life.