Tag Archives: Richard Griffiths

The Lady in the Van

Margaret Fairchild’s life is full and wonderfully varied – she loves the piano and is a gifted pianist. As a girl, her parents recognise her talent and she spends time under the tutelage of Alfred Cortot, one of the 20th century’s most renowned classical musicians. Young Margaret even plays Chopin in a promenade concert. As she grows up she hopes to become a nun, but it doesn’t eventuate and her brother commits her to an institution. She manages to escape, but later she’s driving along a country lane when her van is in a motor accident. The motorcyclist involved is badly injured and she believes she’s responsible. From that day onwards she lives in total fear of arrest and takes fright every time anyone approaches her. To “disappear”, she becomes Miss Mary Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith) – and lives in a Bedford van, moving from place to place around London each time the locals become suspicious or too close to her. One day she parks in the Camden street of writer, Allan Bennett (by Alex Jennings), who tolerates her, even when she regularly avails herself of his bathroom and moves her unsightly van into his driveway. He agrees that she can stay “temporarily”, which becomes fifteen years of Miss Shepherd and Mr Bennett barely enduring each other’s presence. This is a true story …

Whilst there is no doubting the strength of Maggie Smith’s performance as the belligerent and eccentric Miss Shepherd, I did find this movie hard going. She plays the ungrateful “Lady in the Van” very well and her character is fascinating, if not frustrating. Also, the script has its very witty moments, but overall the movie didn’t really grab me. Something’s not quite right with it. Alan Bennett’s narrative is told in a double-act – Allan Bennet the writer and Allan Bennet the man – who chat with each other of the frustrations of this woman and what they will do about it, also how writer Allan will develop his book based on the story. The neighbours are typical of the time (seemingly welcoming, but suspicious and eager for her to depart) and Allan’s interactions with the Social Worker, Lois (by Claire Foy) provide an interesting interlude. Miss Shepherd, aka Margaret Fairchild, died in 1989. Overall, the movie is okay, but I would wait until television to see it.

Made in 2015. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Movies


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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (played by Ben Kingsley), is born in India in 1869. He is educated as a solicitor in Britain and develops a deep belief in non-violence and a balanced, peaceful life for all. An intense and passionate thinker, his beliefs lead him to become active in the civil rights movement in South Africa in 1893 and in the early twentieth century he returns to India where his reputation grows quickly. He becomes known across all India as “Mahatma” – the venerable Gandhi. His followers multiply as he spreads his pro-independence message across the sub-continent. Gandhi becomes the leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against British rule. This is the dramatization of his life and his work to bring India to independence through the underlying principles of non-violence and non-cooperation. He is particularly noted for his non-secular approach – a practising Hindu, he embraces and models acceptance of the other significant faiths in India – Islam and Christianity. Coverage of his entire life is difficult, but the key milestones are here between his initiation into Civil Rights, his leadership of the independence campaign and his eventual assassination in Delhi in 1948.

This is a glorious movie about a fascinating and influential man known as “Mahatma” Gandhi. The masterful direction and excellent cinematography depicts India as a sprawling, beautiful, mysterious landscape that’s colourful and romantic – and that in itself is a job well done. Filmed on location at many of India’s key political locations, such as the Red Fort in Delhi, it is true to life in that sense, but anyone who has visited India will know that this version is not quite like the real life India. However, the way the drama unfolds and the visual pleasure of it can perhaps be interpreted as how the calm eyes of Mahatma Gandhi may see his world. Richard Attenborough deserves all the accolades he gets for his work in this movie – it’s marvellous. The story itself is significant to India’s history, but like most cultural and political upheaval it’s violent, difficult and doesn’t always go as planned, nor end well – but the telling is beautiful. There is no doubt that Ben Kinglsey, a newcomer to movies in 1982, is hugely deserving of the Academy Award (Oscar), Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards he receives for this performance – it’s remarkable and he is wonderful. The cinematography thoroughly deserves it too – although the movie is long (3 hours), the landscapes and panoramic presentation make it very watchable. Along with the copious awards for Ben Kingsley, the movie receives Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Writing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes and Editing. It also receives Golden Globes for Best Foreign Film, Director, New Star of the Year (Kingsley) and Screenplay; BAFTAs received are for Direction, Film, Outstanding Newcomer (Kingsley) and Supporting Actress (Rohini Hattangadi – who plays Gandhi’s wife). Excellent job.

Made in 1982. Directed by Richard Attenborough

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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Movies


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