We gave it a B-
The way one raises an eyebrow and the other pulls in her chin may be reason enough for those in the right mood to indulge in Ladies in Lavender. The champion eyebrow waggler, after all, is Dame Maggie Smith, the unbeatable chin puller is Dame Judi Dench, and you know how the saying goes, the two thespian lovelies would enchant just reading the phone book, and yada yada. Alas, since this re-creation of a period-piece dainty is set in Cornwall, England, in 1936, with a rumor of war in the air, there are no phone books to be consulted. But there is a handsome Polish stranger (Daniel Bruhl) who washes up on the shore of the beachy cottage inhabited by a widow (Smith) and her spinster sister (Dench), setting both hearts aflutter in different ways as they nurse the injured young man. Natascha McElhone plays an artsy, foreign-born siren who, the ladies decide, is up to no good.
In adapting a story by Edwardian-era writer William J. Locke for his directorial debut, Jewel in the Crown royalty Charles Dance favors cap-Q Quaint scenes of villagers hoisting pints and dancing in pubs. His cinematic style mixes the scent of mothballs with that of the lavender in which these ladies are preserved.