Two Films Set in London: One Ridiculous and One a Delight


The Lady in the Van is the archetypal British indie film. It focuses on a small group of eccentrics who live in an artsy and fashionable neighborhood of Camden Town. Their placid and refined existence is invaded by an unseemly new arrival. The “lady” in the van is at first a kind of bag lady who drives when she’s not parked at the curb, living in her van. She’s eccentric and evasive about her affairs–even when people go out of their way to do her kindnesses. A local playwright (Alex Jennings), feigns disaffection but is slowly drawn to assist her and wonder about her past. British Maggie Smith is captivating in her role as “Mary” and you feel as though she has to get a best actress nomination for this. If you can’t make it to the UK in person this, a little film such as this one is the next best thing.

London Has Fallen, on the other hand has some strong casting for the genre, but drags the credibility (and some sensibilities) of the viewer right into eye-rolling disgust—unless your favorite movies are the all from the Rambo series. The antagonist is Middle Eastern, the president is white, and the violence is so gratuitous that you even get to see some stereotyped European heads of state taken out. But that shouldn’t be a problem for the average xenophobe viewer. As a result of the totally implausible notions that I won’t bother listing, the main reasons to see this film would be either to 1) satisfy some unhealthy psychological need or 2) to laugh at the impossible plot points and wonder if the film were subsidized by the same people who started the war on Iraq and Afghanistan.



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