Although at surface this is the tragic story of a stunning mind lost to the debilitation of Alzheimer’s disease, it is truly a meditation on love, commitment, and the inevitable truth that we all will grow old, ugly, and dependent. Three Oscar-nominated performances are turned in by Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent, in this love-letter to great British writer Iris Murdoch. The interplay between the fire of the young Iris, played by Winslet, and the wisdom but then incoherence of the aging Iris, played by Dench, is especially well conceived. [uk, 2001]

ladies in lavender

Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith star in this story of two sisters, Ursula and Janet, whose simple existence is turned on its ear when an injured young man washes up on their beach. Ursula (Dench) is a spinster, and Janet (Smith) a war widow, so it has been some time since a man was in their lives. The presence of the vivacious young man stirs up long forgotten feelings in Ursula, and tensions arise in the household. Delicately acted and beautifully shot, this film has the added delight of seeing these two formidable actors comfortably together. Smith plays true to role with arched superiority, but Dench is the real marvel of this movie, showing the blush of young love as it is reflected in old age. [UK, 2005]