The first time I was aware of Dame Judi Dench, who stars in the upcoming “Red Joan”, was in the 1995 James Bond film, “GoldenEye.” There was something charming about her, arresting even, as she carried a dry sense of humor and a directness about her.
In fact, her prominence because of James Bond caused me to seek out her other films. I am still working through her extensive filmography, which started with 1964’s “The Third Secret” directed by Charles Crichton, while her appearances on British Television started as early as 1959.
Outside of James Bond, she perhaps more famous to British audiences for her work on the sitcom “As Time Goes By” from 1992 – 2005. She is a steadfast philanthropist and her work speaks volumes.
Here then are my five favourite performances from her long film career which spans over 50 years. “Red Joan” opens in Phoenix Friday, April 26.
5. “Iris” (2001, d. Richard Eyre) A difficult look at Alzheimer’s disease and its effect on a couple, Ms. Dench’s BAFTA – winning performance is touching to watch as well as difficult. Seeing someone deteriorate in front of the camera is never an easy thing, but her presence on the camera is a treat. Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet were equally as engaging; Broadbent went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Winslet was nominated for Supporting Actress.
4. “Mrs. Brown” (1997, d. John Madden) Dench’s turn as the recently widowed Queen Victoria and her relationship with a servant, John Brown is the subject on this award-winning film. Billy Connolly played the eponymous Mr. Brown. The story follows their relationship until his death in 1883. The film is a technical marvel and supports the spectacular performances.
3. “Chocolat” (2000, d. Lasse Hallstrom) A romcom with a dramatic twist, “Chocolat” is the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), who emigrates to the fictional village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes with her son. Dench plays Amande one of the first to fall victim to Vianne’s antics. It is a heartfelt story with a sweet twist and not to be missed.
2. “Victoria & Abdul” (2017, d. Stephen Frears) In her second turn as Queen Victoria, Dench befriends Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) as he is charged with presenting her with a mohur (a gold coin) in honor of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The story of the friendship between the two is based on a true story. Though the film was not as strong as it could have been, Dench’s performance as Queen Victoria is nothing short of amazing and is what makes the movie.
1. “Shakespeare in Love” (1998, d. John Madden) In her Academy Award Winning role as Queen Elizabeth I, Ms. Dench is absolutely electric in this romantic comedy that sees a romantic relationship between Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes.) The sharp and witty keeps us invested in Ms Dench’s small, however pivotal performance.
What’s your favorite Judi Dench film? Sound off on the Phoenix Film Festival’s social media pages. We would love to hear from you.