The premise for Mrs Henderson Presents is that upon the death of her husband, a very wealthy English woman opens a theatre in London which, through a series of circumstances, becomes the venue for a nude review.
Dame Judi Dench plays Mrs Henderson with all of the integrity that you would expect from her. But also with great humour as Mrs Henderson is not the dowager you expect at the beginning of the film. She’s independent and feisty, but also vulnerable and there’s a scene in particular, later in the film when she reflects on her life (and perhaps her fading beauty) where you genuinely feel her humanity. That was one of a number of scenes in the movie when I found myself a little teary, along with another scene when the theatre has been closed down when she explains her personal motivations for running the theatre. I dare you not to laugh and cry within the same speech.
Cinematically, the film bears a resemblance to all of those BBC dramas of the 1980s, such as “The Singing Detective”. Most impressive was the subtle computer generated backdrop of London in the 1930s. Least impressive was the obvious computer generate skyline towards the end of the movie… the quality control on the big screen wasn’t good. Mind you, it was made by BBC films, so perhaps it was always intended for a television or a DVD release in which case that would have been less obvious.
This movie was based on a true story of a London theatre which continued in the mist of World War II and which provided a wonderful farewell for so many young men who would be dead within days fighting in Europe, which makes it all the more poignant.