Film Screening 14th May, 2016

Poster for The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van 

7:00 PM, 14th May, 2016

  • M
  • 104 mins
  • 2015
  • Nicholas Hytner
  • Alan Bennett
  • Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, James Corden

After sci-fi blockbusters, dress-up period pieces and wizard movies, the British film industry also does a good trade in films about eccentricity. The Lady in the Van is the most recent example. In this, Maggie Smith plays a homeless lady that lives in a broken down old van. The van gently rolls down the hill of a London street over a period of months and eventually lands at the bottom of the hill – at the house of Alan Bennett (Jennings).

For those who don’t know, Alan Bennett is a comedy legend. While The Beatles were conquering America and the rest of the world, Alan was a member of the British Comedy Fab Four that created much of modern British satire. So when this lady shows up outside his house, he decides that instead of trying to get her to move on elsewhere, he would do what Thatcher would never think of doing and allow her to stay in the van in his driveway for at least a few months. At least until she is settled so she can sort herself out. What develops is a unique bond between two eccentric individuals over a period of 15 years.

If you enjoyed films like The Queen or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then you will probably like this one. Bennett specialises in wit, and the best of British acting were very happy to include themselves in this film if only for the chance to deliver some choice Bennett lines.

Christopher Patterson

Poster for The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl 

8:54 PM, 14th May, 2016

  • MA
  • 102 mins
  • 2015
  • Marielle Heller
  • Marielle Heller
  • Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni

Winning over watchers at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the refreshing and off-beat The Diary of a Teenage Girl by first-time director Marielle Heller offers an honest tale of teenagehood and all its trappings. Relayed through the cassette recordings of 15-year-old wannabe cartoonist Minnie Goetz (Powley), the audience is privy to scandals both petty and provocative, despite her proclamation: “If you’re listening to this without my permission, please stop now. Just stop.” Set amidst the backdrop of the bohemian counterculture haze of mid-’70s San Francisco, the period atmosphere is rendered almost palpable by a rich colour palette of burnt oranges and denim blues and references to icons of the decade such as The Stooges.

Weighted with the controversy stemming from an affair between the impulsive Minnie and Monroe (Skarsgård), the layabout boyfriend of her mother (executed by Kristen Wiig in a masterful performance), the story belies the conventional mild-mannered coming-of-age complication. Yet animated interludes of Minnie’s youthful imaginings (courtesy of Sara Gunnarsdottir) soften the gritty realism and pay homage to the film’s source material; a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. Unlike the vivacious protagonist, we are spared the rose-coloured view of Monroe and instead are drawn to the infectious personality of the young narrator. With her doe-eyed expression and Adrian Mole-esque drawl, one cannot help but plunge into this strikingly intimate story with the voice of misguided youth at its heart.

Alexandra Stewart