Sunday, March 6, 2016
The Lady and the Man
Last night we went to see The Lady in the Van based on Alan Bennett's memoir. And although literal shit was featured in the film, with Bennett at one point expressing the view that 'caring is about shit', after having to clean Maggie Smith's shit off his boot (as one does), this true to life, down with the shit, quintessentially British story, was, otherwise, as sweet-smelling as any I've seen.
Maggie is of course perfect for the part of a highly educated, slightly demented but deceptively sane dropout, and is rightly nominated for a Bafta for best actress, and Bennett, who makes an appearance late in the film for which he wrote the screenplay, too, has rightly benefited from his generous accommodation of the actual lady in the van parked -- with a whole lot of shit, actual and other -- for 15 years in the driveway of his fairly posh house, which is the house used in the film.
I do love memoir, I must admit, and although this story is only 'mostly true', as it states at the start, that is true enough for me. Indeed no reproduction is all true, only life itself is that. But the good memoir has that ring of truth to it that makes a clever, if quiet, mockery of our over-written manufactured 'truths', by showing us just how fantastic, quirky and good -- or bad -- as the case may be, real life is. You can't make this shit up, in short. And that is just as well.
Shit does happen indeed, but the reward and the good is all in the recovery, as they rightly say. All in those small, true acts of heroism that reassure, and entertain, if done right, as they are here, such as the writer holding the hand of the stinky old lady in the van when she asks him to on the night before she dies, neither he nor she knowing it will be her last (though perhaps she has an inkling).
And that bit of the story is all true, as Bennett states in the film for the sceptics among us. And in that simple gesture you know the humanity of the man and of the lady in the van. She is saying thank you and he is saying, it's all right, just before she quietly dies. What better way to end a film - or a life.