Tea with the Dames documents the unsurprisingly delightful gathering of Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith -- formidable actors bestowed the female equivalent of knighthood in the United Kingdom, with the honorific "Dame."
They also seem to be good friends, with substantial resumes in the theater, where they launched their careers, and on screen. The documentary from Notting Hill director Roger Michell slices in key moments of both as the dames reminisce -- and dish -- about their roles. Plowright spills the tea on her marriage to and work with Sir Laurence Olivier, who once injured her during a production of Othello. "It was the only time I saw stars at the National Theatre," she says.
She is 89 and now blind, a source of some confusion and at times even ribbing, and each of the others is 84. Their discussion of aging is particularly sharp, poignant and wise. "When have we ever sat like this?" they ask each other. They haven't, at least on camera, and it feels like a privilege to be invited along to the English countryside.
But tea is a light meal, and the film comes to seem a missed opportunity. Perhaps by design or request, the women don't delve very deeply into subjects with which they've surely grappled, like the injustices the MeToo movement continues to uncover. The 90-minute doc includes some awkward silences, as though the Dames aren't quite sure what to say next. It would've been nice to have a spot more.