Two Films About Old Age
THE LADY IN THE VAN
Directed by Nicholas Hhtner
Written by Alan Bennett
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Although these films were very different in tone, subject and story, both dealt with being old in the UK, or anywhere perhaps. Both were helped enormously by great acting and a terrific story.
Alan Bennett, who wrote THE LADY IN THE VAN about his own experiences with a homeless woman who took up residence in his driveway (for 15 years!), excels in writing plays and stories about quirky characters. Himself included. Maggie Smith plays the irritating, irascible and more than a little crazy lady of the title. She’s been passed from driveway to driveway on his street and his suits her longest. Her back story, when it comes out, is a sad one. Parallels between his relationship with the lady and his mother are interesting and poignant. Maggie has never been better.
45 YEARS is perhaps the better film because it nails how a long and supposedly happy marriage can unravel quickly. Secrets from the past are no farther away than an attic hovering menacingly above. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling play the childless couple who are planning an anniversary party, which threatens to become a wake. Perhaps the camera dwells lovingly on Rampling’s face too often, but it is certainly a worthy one. You can’t help but wonder if those 45 years have been lived mainly by rote rather than by passion. Rampling’s face and eyes are able to convey so much information. What a gift. And Courtney, in the less developed role, is touching.
Highly recommended for those who love great writing.
In addition to being the Crimespree Senior Film Critic, Patti has penned numerous short stories and her debut novel, CONCRETE ANGEL, is in stores now. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at pattinase.blogspot.com. She hopes you’ll join in.