To be honest, there's not much to veteran British character actor Charles Dance's writing and directing debut, Ladies in Lavender, a rather plain if visually sweet adaptation of William J. Locke's short story about the effect of a young Polish man on the lives of two Cornwall spinsters. But it's a deceiving little work, for it shows, if nothing else, the inner torture of a woman's heart. The film is being marketed as a vehicle for two literal Dames -- Maggie Smith (one of my all-time faves) and Judi Dench -- but no one, even Smith, is kidding herself here. This is all about Dench's remarkable ability to convey the cracks of a broken heart with virtually zero histrionics. The young Pole (Daniel Brühl) literally washes up on the shore of the sisters' home and, by doing so, serves as a constant reminder of Ursula's (Dench) life without romance. That she falls for the young man so explicitly may unnerve some, but what's really the stunner is how tempted the viewer is to fall in love with Ursula, in all her lioness-in-winter sensuality. You go, woman.
Opens Friday, July 8
Canal Place, The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 363-1117