I'm still not firing on all cylinders yet ( no jokes) but I was glad that we went to the cinema this afternoon.
We went to see Nicolas Hytner's screen adaptation of Alan Bennett's " The Lady In The Van"
The film , somewhat tentatively , explores Bennett's odd relationship with the eccentric Miss Shepherd who lived a somewhat disorganised and slovenly life in an old van outside his London house for over fifteen years.
Bennett is portrayed as the character that we all think that we know and love. He is a Witty , self depreciating, lonely old northern poof with mother issues and Miss Shepherd is his shit flinging mother figure, cow muse , a woman with a hidden past, mental health issues and the ideal character to base a book, play and now a film on.
I could go on about the the film's efforts to keep Miss Shepherd's secrets until the film reel, but I won't, as these swerve balls are not really important to the experience per se.
The film's strength lies in Maggie Smith .
Now we all know the Smith " shriek" which has been put to such good effect in productions ranging from Gosforth Park and Downton Abbey to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Private Function and so fans will be happy to hear that she brandishes it , with magnificent effect in this movie as she berates Bennett ( Alex Jennings) and the other well meaning residents of leafy Camden .However it is in several key almost silent scenes that the old girl, with her lined face and sad eyes, shines so beautifully.
The first is when Miss Shepherd listens to a beautiful piece of music for the first time in many years and the second is when she is placed on an ambulance tail lift, an experience which she finds strangely exciting. Like a silent film star , the emotions she shares with the audience , are extraordinary powerful and moving.
The script isn't as biting and funny as Bennett's A Private Function, which is a little disappointing and the " clever" touches such as the cameos from all of the history boys as well as the underused roles of all of the Camden residents ( Francis de la Tour, Roger Allam, Deborah Findley) let the side down a little.
But having said that, it is Smith that makes the whole amusing story, worthwhile