Take 3: Ladies in Lavender Review

This is my first time participating in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. Because I’m not familiar with the subject of Luso World Cinema, I gave my submission careful consideration. A movie I have wanted to watch for a while is Ladies in Lavender. When I discovered Daniel Brühl was one of the blogathon’s recommended subjects, I decided to review his 2005 film, as he is one of the starring actors in that movie. I haven’t seen many projects from Daniel’s filmography. In fact, the only film of his I’ve seen is Captain America: Civil War. So, this is a good opportunity for me to see what his acting talents have to offer outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The synopsis of Ladies in Lavender reminded me of Swept from the Sea, a movie I reviewed two years ago. Because of this, I will compare and contrast these two films from time to time in this review.

Ladies in Lavender poster created by Tale Partnerships, Scala Productions, and Lakeshore International.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: For this part of the review, I will take a moment to talk about Daniel Brühl’s performance, as he is the reason why I reviewed this movie. His portrayal of Andrea was enjoyable to watch! It combined both comedic and dramatic elements that helped make Daniel’s performance entertaining. One example is when Andrea is peeling potatoes with Dorcas. What also worked in Daniel’s favor was how he was able to portray his character realistically. Whenever Andrea is trying to make his wishes known to the other characters, you can see him becoming frustrated at times. This was achieved through Daniel’s facial expressions and body language. Despite not being familiar with Natascha McElhone as an actress, I did like her portrayal of Olga. She appeared throughout the film as an approachable character. Natascha also had a good on-screen relationship with Daniel Brühl as well as with the other actors. A perfect example is when Olga is interacting with Andrea in her cottage. Speaking of on-screen relationships, I liked seeing Judi Dench and Maggie Smith work together in this film. While they have similar acting styles, their characters were allowed to have their own district personalities. This let them shine individually as well as together! One of their best scenes is when their characters, Janet and Ursula, receive terrible news over the phone. As Janet is telling her sister what happened, Ursula immediately crumbles into tears. This scene showcases how the sisters have an unbreakable bond!

The scenery: Similar to Swept from the Sea, Ladies in Lavender takes place in the English countryside. This particular environment provided photogenic scenery that visually complemented the story! Because Ladies in Lavender is set in a seaside town, there are some scenes that take place around the ocean. It was captured very well on film at various moments, from a morning scene where the rising sun perfectly contrasted the water to a night-time shot of the rolling waves. Country landscapes were also included in the movie! In one scene, Olga is painting a landscape of rolling hills with a nearby tower. The location itself contained beautiful green hills that looked great on a sunny day. The gray of the nearby tower paired surprisingly well with the rolling hills’ green hue. Because of how picturesque this space was, it makes sense that Olga would want to capture it on canvas!

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by the good cinematography found in Ladies in Lavender, especially when it came to scenes involving water! In films where a character is drowning, those scenes are usually presented with a fast pace and quick cuts. When we see Andrea’s flashbacks, they are presented at a slower pace. This allowed the audience to see what is happening on screen as Andrea is shown in the water. One of the most beautifully shot scenes I’ve ever seen is when Andrea is playing a violin on a rocky ledge at night. His dark silhouette perfectly contrasts with the deep blue ocean that looks like it sparkles in the evening. The color scheme of blue, white, and black are prominently featured and is visually appealing!

The Second Luso World Cinema Blogathon banner created by Le from Critica Retro and by Beth from Spellbound by Movies.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An unclear direction: In Swept from the Sea, the overall story is a drama with a romance included. This is a clear creative direction that was consistent throughout the film.  Ladies in Lavender is different, as the story went in many different directions. It gets to the point where it was difficult to determine what the plot was about besides the main premise. Was the story supposed to be about a forbidden romance? Or was it meant to revolve around the strained relationship between two siblings? Maybe it was supposed to partially focus on Andrea’s musical dreams? The story of Ladies in Lavender adopted too many ideas. That decision made the overall film feel like it was bouncing around from place to place.

Telling more than showing: At various moments in Ladies in Lavender, the audience is told how Andrea was washed up ashore. We are even shown flashbacks where he is seen drowning. However, we never get to see the events that caused Andrea to fall overboard. Because of this, the audience is not given a complete picture of what happened. At one point in the story, Janet and Ursula meet Olga. They express how they don’t like this new visitor. But the audience never receives an explanation for why Janet and Ursula do not like Olga. Visuals should have been used to illustrate the sisters’ point. If this had been the case, we might have gotten a better glimpse into Janet and Ursula’s perspective.

The exclusion of Andrea’s perspective: I know this movie is called Ladies in Lavender, with the title referring to Janet and Ursula. But because the overall story primarily focused on Janet and Ursula’s perspective, we don’t see the story from Andrea’s perspective. In Swept from the Sea, the story is narrated by Dr. Kennedy. Despite this, the audience is allowed to see that film’s world from Yanko’s perspective. That aspect of Swept from the Sea also gave the audience an opportunity to truly get to know Yanko as a character. With Ladies in Lavender, I feel like I barely know Andrea. The inclusion of Andrea’s perspective would have easily solved this issue.

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ladies in Lavender is a film that I found to be just ok. Yes, there are aspects worth appreciating, such as Daniel Brühl’s performance. As a matter of fact, this movie made me appreciate Daniel’s acting abilities more! But if I had to choose between Ladies in Lavender and Swept from the Sea, I’d choose Swept from the Sea. This is because I find that movie to be stronger among the two. With Ladies in Lavender, the direction of the overall story was unclear. While there was a main conflict, it was difficult to determine what the main plot was. More telling than showing was also one of the movie’s flaws, not giving the audience the full picture when it came to certain areas of the story. I found the lack of Andrea’s perspective to be disappointing as well. This prevented me from truly getting to know Andrea as a character. Even though Ladies in Lavender will not be one of the best movies I saw this year, I am glad I participated in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. I wonder what I’ll chose to write about next year?

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen Ladies in Lavender? Are there any Luso World Cinema films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Christmas Bow Review + 265 & 270 Follower Thank You

After a temporary break from blogging to work on a creative side project, I have returned to write a blog follower dedication review! 18 Cinema Lane received 265 followers right before my blogathon, A Blogathon to be Thankful For, started. Because I was reading participants’ articles, as well as writing my own editorial, I planned on publishing this review after the event. Shortly after the blogathon ended, 18 Cinema Lane received 270 followers. As the Christmas season is now upon us, I chose to talk about one of Hallmark’s newest seasonal titles. A film I had wanted to see was Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ The Christmas Bow. What intrigued me was the story’s use of music and the dramatic nature of the plot. Even though Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is known for creating less light-hearted Christmas films than Hallmark Channel, the stories themselves do contain good messages and themes.

The Christmas Bow poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I’m not familiar with the acting talents of Lucia Micarelli, I feel she did a great job with the material she was given! Lucia’s best scene was when, during a flashback, her character, Kate, is playing the violin for her grandmother. Throughout this scene, Lucia was able to convey so much emotion with her face alone; trying to hold back tears while staying passionate about the music her character loved. Prior to watching The Christmas Bow, I had seen some of Michael Rady’s performances from his Hallmark projects. A consistent part of Michael’s acting abilities is how he makes his portrayals appear so effortless. Whether his character was interacting with his cousin or having deep conversations with his mother, Michael gave a performance that felt natural. The supporting cast in this film was strong, with some stand-out performers among the cast. One of them was James Saito, who portrayed Kate’s relative, Grandpa Joe! Whenever James’ character came on screen, he brought joy with him. That’s because he had a great on-screen personality and his smile lit up the room!

The interior design: I really liked seeing the interior design inside Kate’s family’s home! It was not only creative, but also photogenic. In Kate’s room, the décor was primarily white with splashes of color. With the addition of Christmas lights, the room appeared brighter. This prevented the space from looking drab or unimpressive. The living room featured light and dark stone along one wall and the fireplace. Light wood cabinets from the nearby kitchen complement the stone work. Within this house, there were interesting design choices when it came to specific elements in certain rooms or areas. The upstairs hallway contains a tall white bookshelf. A dark wood ladder and desk pairs nicely with the shelving unit.

The music: When I first read the synopsis for this movie, I knew that music would play a significant role in the story. However, all of the music in The Christmas Bow was pleasant to listen to! Because Kate is a violinist, classical music has a primary place in this film’s soundtrack. As she performs, the songs themselves are really good. From ‘Carol of the Bells’ to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, these were familiar tunes that were strengthened by the sound of the violin. I also liked the story angle the film’s creative team took in regards to the influence music has during the Christmas season. When Kate and Patrick’s cousin meet for the first time at a café, Kate teaches him that closing his eyes will help him see the music. Patrick’s cousin tries this technique as Christmas music plays throughout the café. This lesson also shows how music can play a role in people’s lives.

Adorable Christmas card image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-greeting-card-vector_2824854.htm’>Designed by Rawpixel.com</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Rawpixel.com – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A less dramatic injury: Based on The Christmas Bow’s synopsis, I expected the film’s protagonist to be involved a car accident that causes her to be so traumatized, she decides to avoid the violin as much as possible. In the movie, Kate ends up hurting her hand due to getting it caught in a door. Hand injuries and broken bones are serious. However, compared to what I expected, it seemed like this part of Kate’s story wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been.

Obligatory Christmas activities: In my review of I’m Not Ready for Christmas, I mentioned how the Christmas activities featured in the film were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that they were watching a Christmas movie. The Christmas Bow has a similar flaw, as Patrick’s cousin continually presents a list of Christmas activities he wants to complete before December 25th. While these activities were woven into the overall story better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas, their presentation in The Christmas Bow felt like they had to be there. The activities themselves were those that have been featured in countless Christmas movies before, such as buying a Christmas tree and making gingerbread houses.

A party planning subplot: One of the subplots in The Christmas Bow revolved around Kate’s family planning a Christmas party at their music store. The subplot itself wasn’t bad and preparation for a party can work as a story concept. But an influx of this type of story during last year’s Christmas line-ups made me hope both networks would move away from showing party planning in their movies. Sadly, Hallmark isn’t aware of that detail as they continue to recycle this plot point.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Christmas Bow is the first 2020 released Christmas movie from Hallmark I’ve seen. Therefore, I can only compare it to the 2015 film, I’m Not Ready for Christmas. What I will say is The Christmas Bow is far better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Sure, there were flaws within the film. But the overall story was engaging with memorable strengths. Music was easily woven into the plot, feeling like it naturally fit in the movie. Character interactions and acting performances helped make the film worth watching. The story itself definitely belonged on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as the material was more emotional than projects found on Hallmark Channel. While it’s too early to say if The Christmas Bow will go on to become one of Hallmark’s “classics”, I can state here that I liked the film. Thank you to my followers who have supported 18 Cinema Lane! It truly is an accomplishment I appreciate!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen any of Hallmark’s 2020 Christmas films? If so, which one has been your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen