Directed by Stephen Frears, starring Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Kelly Reilly, Thelma Barlow and Christopher Guest.

It's London in 1937, and recently widowed Mrs Laura Henderson (Dench) decides that she will use her sizeable inheritance to purchase a theatre.

From the elderly woman's purse strings came the birth of the Windmill Theatre, which went on to continually re-invent itself in order to attract the hordes before, during and after World War Two.

Henderson pulled a masterstroke by employing Vivien Van Damm (Hoskins) as manager. His decision to introduce Revuedeville (which is non-stop entertainment) sees the venue packed both day and night. However, the competition soon imitated the trick and The Windmill was forced to again come up with something different to set it apart from the pack.

The wealthy widow got the inspired idea to put naked girls on stage. She then persuaded the censor to allow the venture, but only if the girls remained motionless – so as to mimic naked portraits in an art gallery.

Director Stephen Frears really can't be faulted here. The casting, sets, cinematography, singing and dancing are spot-on and capture the period brilliantly.

Nevertheless, the one thing he cannot affect is the main character he has to work with.

Dench captures the essence of the British upper-class superiority complex expertly. That, however, cannot compensate for the fact that Henderson had what can best be described as a testing personality. She was aloof, arrogant and, at times, unashamedly racist.

Towards the end the film tries to redeem Henderson's personality, but for many it will be a case of too little, too late. Everyone has personal circumstances. Thankfully, not everyone becomes an insufferably ignorant and interfering person because of them.

The rest of the cast perform admirably, with Christopher Guest ('Spinal Tap', 'Best in Show') making a welcome appearance as the stiff upper-lipped Lord Cromer. And credit where credit is due, 'Pop Idol' product Will Young shines as camp lead singer Bertie.

Long-time fans of 'Coronation Street' may have to rub their eyes when they see Thelma Barlow (who played Mavis Riley/Wilton in the Mancunian soap) make her feature-length film debut as Lady Conway, a saucy friend of Henderson's.

Another rare occurrence is a full-frontal shot of Hoskins. Anyone who, for whatever reason, has a wish to see the 63-year-old's manhood will hardly get a better chance to see him in all his ageing glory.

A worthy effort, but also a lesson that real people, particularly ones with more money than basic manners, don't always make the most enjoyable characters.

Séamus Leonard