It is 1936 in the village of Cornwall, and elderly sisters Ursula (Judi Dench) and Janet (Maggie Smith) are living a well-ordered and dull life. A violent storm washes a young man (Daniel Bruhl) ashore; the sisters take him in and nurse him back to health. Ursula, the more emotional of the two, is drawn to him immediately and soon has romantic fantasies about him. Janet, the older, no-nonsense sister, is initially less involved, but slowly she, too, comes to see the young man as "hers." His talent for the violin is noticed by their lovely neighbor (Natascha McElhone), but the sisters are jealous of her interest and want to keep him in their life.
This little movie is quite fragile and touching. There's not a lot of action here, but the two stars make it a most satisfying experience. The focus is entirely on their emotional reaction to the presence of the young man, and both Dench and Smith are masters in the arts of facial expression and speech. Miriam Margolys plays a crusty housekeeper for a bit of comic relief, and the always reliable David Warner is a lovelorn village doctor. The various plot threads are left unresolved, much like real life, and one is left with a glimpse into two lives that is heartfelt and real. Dench and Smith are unforgettable; I heartily recommend "Ladies in Lavender" to their fans.