Herald rating: * * *

Whether you see this as a stirring and bracing valentine to the spirit of the Blitz or a sentimental melodrama with some nice song-and-dance numbers will probably depend on how old you were when German bombers last filled the skies above London.

Laura Henderson (Dench), a Raj widow back in London and in search of a hobby, buys a disused Soho theatre, the Windmill, and hires as a manager the faded impresario, Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins).

His show, Revudeville starts well. But when other, bigger houses copy the idea, Mrs Henderson faces financial ruin. She hits on the idea of using nude girls to pull the punters but the censor takes a dim view.

In the end he agrees that if the girls are motionless - tableaux vivants - they will be no more objectionable than Botticelli nudes. The Windmill legend is born.

There's no faulting the standard of the entertainment - Will Young's effortless tenor is a treat - or of the film's meticulous production and costume design. But dramatically and structurally the film is virtually invertebrate.

It is as if each scene is being ticked off on a list of items rather than part of a dramatic whole. In the end, then, it is a film that amounts to much less than the sum of some excellent parts.

But if Vera Lynn singing We'll Meet Again brings a lump to your throat, you are unlikely to mind that at all.

CAST: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young
DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
RUNNING TIME: 103 mins
RATING: M
SCREENING: Rialto from Thursday