New York Times - 04/29/2005
"[T]hese two great actresses sink into their roles as comfortably as house cats burrowing into a down quilt on a windswept, rainy night."
Los Angeles Times - 04/29/2005
"[A]n endearing film of subtlety and charm.... It is a pleasure from start to finish."
Based on a short story by William J. Locke, two spinster sisters, Ursula and Janet (Judi Dench and Maggie Smith), live in an old house by the sea in 1930s Cornwall, England. Their pleasant but uneventful routine of beach walks, reading, sewing, and tea time is interrupted when Andreas, a handsome young Polish violinist (Daniel Bruhl, from GOODBYE, LENIN!) washes ashore, barely alive. The girls nurse him back to health and for the never-married Ursula it's a case of first love far too late in life. She helps him overcome the language barrier, only to possibly lose him to a younger woman, the gorgeous visiting artist (Natasha McElhone) who recognizes his musical talent and is in a situation to help him. It's a simple story, though a perfect showcase for the mastery of Dench and Smith, two of the greatest thespians of all time (though Miriam Margolyes steals many scenes as the no-nonsense housekeeper). The director, Charles Dance, is a major British actor himself, thus his grasp of the myriad subtleties of the art is spot-on here in his directorial debut. Period detail is also of key importance, and cinematographer Peter Biziou captures the invitingly homey yet windswept otherness of the locale and time. Music is also a key component here, and the violin passages attributed to Andreas are stunningly emotional.