Small Square Eyes: The Lady in the Van


The Lady in the Van is a true story and as the mythical say “truth is stranger than fiction”. The title says it all. I was deeply affected by not only the narrative but the superb, understated poignancy of the acting.

If you couldn’t believe that in contemporary New Zealand a woman in her seventies could die alone in winter in her car in one of Auckland’s leafy suburbs you need to see The Lady in the Van.   What is so different though is that the lady and the van one way or the other lived on their street for an incredible number of years ironically supported by those who would most wish her to go away.

I loved the way the residents of an obviously affluent street in their own ways made ongoing gestures of kindness and support to a dirty and difficult human being. Her total rudeness when offered Christmas gifts didn’t deter them.

One Christmas I forced my then husband to take a foil covered plate of Christmas Dinner over the road to an elderly farmer not known for his cleanliness or domestic goddess lifestyle.   He wasn’t in his usual cowshed abode so my poor husband drove up to the other property the farmer was looking after clutching his foil-covered offering. I can’t remember whether the intended recipient was there or not but with unheard of speed a cop car showed up to interrogate the dinner bearer. Confirmed again that in South Auckland it doesn’t pay to be both kind and brown.

I’m not sure whether it’s my age or just that the film was such a masterpiece that made me cry. “…but we’re going to Clynbourne….”

Who could not weep for the lady as what she is capable of,  who she has been and who she is gradually seep into view. But what made me cry the most were the seaside scenes of defiant resilience and then the tender care she received from the ambulance officers and carers.

Who could not love Alan Bennett?  Out manouevred, bullied, flawed and humane. I loved the two character presentation of him. Aren’t we all like that?   Not so much “the face we leave in the jar by the door” but an acknowledgment of our ambivalence in confronting circumstances.

Like most of the films on my small square screen this one has probably been around for ages. Don’t let that deter you. Very much worth watching. It affirms human goodness.

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop.   Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.





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SMALL BUNCHES is a regular online market place. It’s the place to advertise what you’ve grown, letting buyers deal solely with you the grower, and pay you directly. Each weekday there is also a general “Wanted” section where anyone can advertise to source the specific flowers, foliage or plants they are looking for.






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