The Lady in the Van is a sweet comedy starring Maggie Smith as the lady in question and Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Alan Bennett. Alan Bennett is the real life playwright whose existence was invaded by a mysterious and eccentric lady in a van for 15 years. Alan talked to himself, hence Alex Jennings plays him twice. Continue reading “Review: The Lady in the Van”
The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith as a homeless woman, Mary Shepherd, who parks her van in a man’s driveway and leaves it there for 15 years. Alex Jennings plays writer Alan Bennett, the man whose driveway is appropriated. It’s based on a real story.
The film is based on a play by the same name by Alan Bennett, which he adapted for the film. Maggie Smith previously played Mary Shepherd in both the stage play and radio play of this story.
Smith looks like the grande dame of cranky in this story about an eccentric woman who just happened to find herself a home in the life of a writer who would turn her story into an award winning play.
Also in the film are Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Sacha Dhawan, and many others.
The film opens in the US on January 15, 2016. Start your new year with Maggie Smith.
The episode opens with Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) having a cup of coffee on their way to Celia’s. Celia tells Alan that Caroline told her when she was 18 and home from her first year at Oxford that she was interested in a woman. Celia said she didn’t want people pointing and saying things. Alan wanted to know what happened. Celia revealed there was one girl but Caroline never brought her home. In a few years Caroline met John and Celia thought it was forgotten.
Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) arrives home after taking a drunk and bloody Judith to the emergency room. Kate (Nina Sosanya) is there waiting. Caroline asks how the boys are. Kate says do you want the bad news first or the even worse news?
Kate tells Caroline that Gillian (Nicola Walker) rang and warned about Celia coming home. Kate says Celia is apparently taking the news badly. Plus, Lawrence now knows about Kate.
Caroline goes up to Lawrence’s (Louis Greatorex) bedroom. He is in tears and hugs her fiercely, saying he doesn’t want people being mean to her. She hugs him back and says, nobody is going to be mean to her, she can handle mean. Since we saw her effectively shut down the male teacher who tried to intimidate her, we know she’s right. Lawrence appreciates the reassurance, however.
At the farm, John (Tony Gardner) wakes up in Gillian’s bed. He goes outside to find her working on the clutch. Paul (Sacha Dhawan) is sitting outside reading a manual on Land Rovers while Gillian works. John comments that Gillian is up early. She says, “Early? It’s half past 7.”
“We made love,” John says. Gillian says, “You were upset. It was my birthday. Go pour yourself some tea.” John seems to want to process the night, Gillian doesn’t. She lets him know with her attitude that it was nothing but sex and she’s not interested in anything more. Paul’s a bit jealous. Gillian isn’t interested in that either.
Caroline goes to her mother’s cottage in the early morning. She looks like a child, steeling herself to face an angry parent. She says she’s sorry Celia heard what she heard the way she heard it. Alan tries to leave them alone, but Celia insists he stays.
Caroline says, “I don’t know what you’ve heard.” Celia answers, “Well, I’m assuming it’s nonsense.”
Alan looks at Celia in dismay. He doesn’t like the way Celia is dismissing Caroline.
Caroline tries to explain how she and Kate became close and how things developed. Caroline said, “She thinks the world of me, and I think a lot about her.”
Celia raises her voice and calls it sudden. Caroline says it isn’t sudden, that she tried to talk to her mom about it when she was in university. Celia ignores that and says, “Why did you marry John?”
Caroline answers that she married him because she like him and thought they could have a good life, which they did until he ran off with Judith.
Caroline wants her mother to get it. Caroline says, “I’m too old to pretend anymore.” Celia is untouched by the pain in Caroline’s face. Caroline says, “I’d like both of you to meet Kate.”
Celia says, “No thank you.” Caroline insists they must. She says she’s called Kate McKenzie, which prompts Celia to ask if she’s Scottish. Caroline answers, “No, she’s Nigerian.” The Brits are far more enlightened about race that we are here in the states, but the implications of the word Nigerian wash across Celia’s face in an unpleasant way. Celia announces that she and Alan have decided against the school chapel and will make other plans.
Celia says it would be better if she moved out. Alan watches her walk away from Caroline with a horrified expression on his face.
Alan arrives back in Halifax on the train, where Gillian is waiting to pick him up. They stop in a pub where he tells her the story. Gillian says, “Why does she have to move out so fast? Is she afraid she’s going to get infected with lesbian spores?”
Alan explains that he told Celia that Kate seemed like a nice person and that was what mattered. He says it’s nothing these days, people don’t bat an eye at lesbians.
John arrives home. Caroline says, “I specifically asked you not to tell my mum.” He says he’s sorry. He says he went to Halifax to talk to Gillian. Caroline says, “I knew you were infatuated with her.” He keeps quiet about the sex with Gillian. He offers to apologize to Celia.
Then Alan asks her about the hundreds – thousands – of times they had sex. He wants to know what she was thinking about.
She says she can’t remember. She says, “I was a good wife. You blew it, not me. I liked having sex with you. I’m sorry if that doesn’t compute but it’s true. I liked you. I loved you. I wanted to have children with you.”
He says he feels used. She talks about how sordid Judith’s flat is and how vulnerable Judith is. When John asks what she was doing with Judith she answers, “I was having sex with her.” He believes it for a moment, but she quickly adds, “That was a joke.” She explains about Judith accidentally slashing her wrist in the garden, William fainting, and how it was a memorable birthday.
At the farm, Paul and Raff (Josh Bolt) are on the couch playing video games like old friends when Gillian and Alan arrive.
Alan and Gillian go in the kitchen where Alan continues to worry over his disappointment in Celia. He says, “She reads The Daily Mail.” Gillian turns very seriously and says, “How long have you known this?” Then they giggle. They talk about Celia’s honesty and plain spokenness, which Alan normally likes. Alan says he was shocked by how unkind and unthinking she had been toward Caroline. Gillian says, “You’re not going to fall out with her.” He doesn’t answer.
Celia comes to Caroline’s door and asks to talk to her. She says it’s been several days since she talked to Alan. He wants Celia to meet Kate. Caroline says she can cook dinner for Kate and Celia and Alan. Celia mutters Oh, god, under her breath as Caroline leaves. She’s only doing it for Alan.
The night of the dinner, the boys are helping with the table, Kate is helping make salads. Celia and Alan are in her cottage waiting for 8:00 to go to dinner. He tells her he thinks she’s bigoted, small minded and old fashioned. She denies it and claims she is not. She’s bewildered by his opinion.
Robbie (Dean Andrews) arrives at the farm. Gillian greets him with a big smile. Robbie’s brought wine for dinner with Gillian. He’s a bit surprised to see Paul still there, but he accepts it. Their dinner will include Robbie, Gillian, Paul and Raff. It’s odd, but it works for Gillian.
At the other dinner party at Caroline’s, Kate is trying very hard, talking to Celia and Alan about how wonderful their story is, which she calls uplifting and extraordinary. Celia is being difficult. Alan keeps attempting to jolly Celia in to behaving better. He says William and Raff put their names on Facebook. Kate says, “I know all about it. Caroline told me.” She takes Caroline’s hand when she says this. Celia looks horrified.
Alan reminds Celia to ask Caroline about using the chapel after all. She acts reluctant to ask. Kate offers a choir – seems she runs the choir at school.
William mentions he’s in the choir. Lawrence says that’s because William is a puff. He says William fainted.
Kate asks what music they would like and Alan mentions “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” Celia is still reluctant to talk about this with Kate. By now Caroline and Celia are shooting daggers at each other with their eyes.
Celia asks why William fainted and Lawrence says, Judith slashed an artery and he got sprayed in mad alkie-woman blood. Kate tries to make light of it, which lets Celia know she was there. Kate asks about honeymoon plans.
Caroline asks to talk to Celia in the other room. They leave the room, but everyone can hear them arguing. Caroline says, “Why are you being like this?” Celia says, “I can’t stand seeing you make a fool of yourself.”
Celia says that Kate is only being nice to Caroline because she wants a promotion. She says that Caroline doesn’t love Kate, a fact she thinks she knows because Caroline didn’t say it outright the other morning. Kate hears this and looks hurt. Alan is mortified on Kate’s behalf. Celia says, “It turned my stomach when she touched you.” Caroline says, “She touched my hand.”
Celia goes back to her cottage. Alan lingers. He asks Kate if she’s all right. She says she’s tough as an old boot. Kate calls a cab and goes outside to wait for it. Caroline chases her outside and asks her to stay. Kate says, “I always knew you didn’t feel the same about me as I feel about you.” She leaves even as Caroline asks her again not to go.
At Celia’s cottage, Celia says, “Well, that’s done.” Alan says, “Yes, that’s done,” in a sad voice. She asks if he’s all right. He says, “No, I’m disappointed.”
Morning in Halifax and Alan has come home on the train again. Gillian and Alan stop at the pub for a talk. He tells her that he thought Celia should try to get on with Kate. He was hurt because Celia told him that her relationship with Kate wasn’t any of his business. He told her they’d reached the end of the line. Celia answered that she couldn’t feel something she didn’t. Gillian is sorry that he thinks it’s ended. He looks terribly sad.
At home, Celia is sitting alone. It looks as if she’s been doing it for hours. Let’s hope she’s doing some soul searching. When Caroline gets home from work she asks to speak to her. She says Alan’s dumped her. Caroline just says, “Oh.” Celia says it’s all because of Caroline’s business. Caroline says, “Don’t you dare blame me.” Celia says, “I’ve been so happy.” Caroline says, “If it’s any consolation, Kate’s finished with me.” Kate handed in her resignation, which Caroline has in her purse.
Caroline calls her mother a nasty, small-minded old bitch. Celia recoils as if she’d been slapped. John comes in and says, “Don’t speak to your mother like that.” Caroline counters, “I haven’t got a mother.” Celia, who was already miserable about Alan, is clearly hurt deeply by Caroline’s venom. Then Caroline runs up to her room where she starts sobbing.
Gillian and Alan are on the couch at the farm. Gillian tells Alan that Robbie asked her out, proper. She reminds Alan that he apologized the other night. We learn that she went out with Robbie before she married Eddie. She says she always liked Robbie. Alan and Celia seem to have lost their second chance at love. Caroline seems to have lost her second chance at love. Here we are in the last episode of the season and we learn that Gillian is hoping for her own second chance at love. The writing on this show is so good!
Alan is rubbing his chest and dismisses it as indigestion when Gillian is concerned.
Celia goes to Kate’s house. Celia talks about her unhappy marriage, about how Caroline was the one thing that kept her going. She talks about how Caroline reminds her of her dad, whom she still misses. Celia says, “The thing that worried me when she told me when she was 18 – what worried me – was I thought it was my fault, by being so disappointed in Kenneth. I thought it was my fault.”
Kate says, “Celia, that’s not how it works.”
Celia says, “Now I know that.” She adds, ” I just want her to be happy.” She give’s Kate a plaintive look. “Don’t leave her.”
The next thing we see is Celia and Kate arriving at Caroline’s door. Caroline opens it and realizes what’s happened. Celia leaves and heads for the cottage. From Celia’s viewpoint outside the house, we see Kate and Caroline on a couch touching and laughing. Celia smiles.
At her own cottage, Celia sees Alan inside and she’s suddenly joyful, but when she gets the door open and turns on the light, he isn’t there.
In the morning Celia drives to the farm. Only Paul is inside. He tells her that Alan had a heart attack. He says the paramedics brought him back from the dead.
Celia rushes to the hospital where she finds Gillian and Raff in Alan’s room. Gillian is crying, she says she didn’t ring because they split up and he was so unhappy. Celia says she’s put everything right and she needs him to know.
Gillian explains what the doctors said and how bad it is. He hasn’t been conscious at all. Celia wants to sit with him and tell him that she’s put things right. Gillian tells her to go ahead.
Celia sits down and talks to the unconscious Alan telling him that it turns out that she’s not bigoted or small minded, but that she blamed herself for Caroline being “the other way inclined.” She says, “I’ve been on the road to Damascus, come out the other side. They’re back together, the ladies. I’m assuming you and I are back on.”
Caroline arrives at the hospital. She hugs Celia and they apologize to each other. She asks how Alan is and Celia whispers, “Not good.”
Alan is dreaming about their youth, about the time he asked Celia out, the time he asked her to meet him on the bridge at 6 PM and she agreed.
Alan awakes saying, “I always knew you’d turn up eventually, even if it took you 60 years.” Celia says, “Hello.” Alan asks, “Did I come to see you last night or were I dreaming?” He says he loves her and he doesn’t care. She says, “I went round to Kate’s house last night and they’re back together.” Celia says, “You’ll never guess. Kate can play the organ. She can play The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.”
Alan laughs. Celia smiles. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba plays in the background. The first season ends on a happy note.
What are your thoughts about this episode?
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It’s the morning after everyone was up all night looking for Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) and after Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) announced to her husband John (Tony Gardner) that she’s been seeing someone.
Caroline parks at her school. She’s on the phone to Kate (Nina Sosanya), all chirpy voiced, asking her to come to her office.
In her office, she grabs Kate, pushes her up against a door, kisses her passionately and pulls up her shirt to reach under and have a feel. She steps back, smiling, and says, “I told John. It felt good.”
Kate asks Caroline if she wants to come round tonight. Caroline says, “Yep.” She studies Kate’s face and announces, “You’re very pretty.” Kate answers, “You’re magnificent.” I have to agree with both of them about it. Caroline whispers something we cannot hear in Kate’s ear, but we can assume it was naughty indeed. They almost kiss again but an assistant comes in with a cup of tea. The assistant talks about the day’s calendar, offers lunch, and heads off.
Caroline collapses in tears with the same passionate energy she had just devoted to kissing, and moans, “I thought she was dead last night. There was this one moment when I thought that’s it. And I thought how unfair that was, to find that one person again after all these years and then die.”
She realizes she sitting on the floor. Kate suggests maybe she should be home resting. Caroline asks if Kate will be home by 4 o’clock and Kate says, “I can be.”
At the farm, Alan is watching Celia sleep. She’s on the couch. He perched on the other end, enjoying the sight of her. He brings in tea and the rattling of the china wakes her. She says, “We keep having adventures!” He reminds her that their adventures have been her idea. They talk about the “distinct presence” in the old Hall last night. Celia says, “We’re back in the land of the living now.”
He starts to tell her something about when Gillian’s husband died, but Paul (Sacha Dhawan) comes crashing down the stairs and through the door. He writhes on the floor in pain muttering about keeping his fluids up as Alan explains who he is.
A knock on the door and it’s Alan’s two sidekicks (Paul Copley and Roy Barraclough) which leads Alan to ask, “Is it Tuesday?” The fellas apparently have a regular Tuesday thing.
Celia is on the phone to Caroline while outside a pub with Alan and the fellas. She asks Caroline to bring her fresh knickers, her toothbrush, and a nightie so she can stay in Halifax a few days. Caroline doesn’t want to do that but asks to call her later. Celia tries to make her feel guilty, apparently an old and well worn game with them, then asks her what she wants for her birthday tomorrow. Caroline manages to get off the phone by promising to call her later. In the pub, Paul is there, trying to drink a pint. Guess they didn’t want to leave him alone at the farm. Alan and his sidekicks discuss Gillian’s birthday tomorrow. Well, well, well, isn’t that interesting. Caroline and Gillian have the same birthday. Alan wants to buy Gillian a used Land Rover and knows where he can find one. He wants to go have a look at it.
Sidekick number one lists his qualifications to be Alan’s best man. Alan won’t commit.
Celia comes in to join them. She says to Paul, “I hope you’re not taking pain killers and drinking alcohol.” He asks her to get him a straw. Cheeky.
Gillian (Nicola Walker) arrives at the house to find it empty. She calls her dad but his phone is on the table. She picks it up and talks to herself on two phones for a funny moment. Then she calls Caroline who explains they’re at a pub. Caroline asks Gillian if she can get her mom a few things – she doesn’t explain why, but we know it will leave her free to go to Kate’s. Gillian can do.
Out in a muddy field, Alan is trying out the used Land Rover. Paul and the two sidekicks are stuffed in the back. Gillian calls and says they are to take Paul to his mother’s house and she asks what size knickers to buy. Celia pretends she can’t hear – no way she’ll discuss knickers in front of these blokes – and hangs up. Sidekick number two announces that the clutch needs to be replaced. And – they are stuck in the mud.
Caroline rings Kate’s doorbell, looking incredibly eager. Just as they are about to start kissing again, Gillian calls asking about knicker sizes for Caroline’s mum. This gives Kate the giggles and we get to see Sarah Lancashire show off her physical comedy skills.
Alan buys a new clutch, and sidekick number two makes his pitch to be best man. Alan doesn’t commit.
Alan and Celia hide the Land Rover in the barn and go inside. He makes tea and tells Celia his story. When Gillian’s husband Eddie put his head in the log splitter, he didn’t die immediately. Gillian stood and watched him die without calling an ambulance. After about an hour, Alan arrived. Gillian told him what had happened and that she had called the police. Alan feels guilty and responsible for being a party to something that wasn’t right. He doesn’t blame Gillian, he just feels guilty about his part. Celia does not blame him or Gillian and reminds Alan about wanting to kill her own husband. Alan says sometimes he feels as if Eddie’s ghost is in the barn and that’s why the Hall bothered him.
They talk about jiving in the old days, and move on to happier thoughts. When Gillian gets back, she hears music and finds them dancing in the living room, much to her delight. (Derek Jocobi is a damn good dancer, by the way.) Gillian snaps their picture and texts it to Caroline. They stop dancing when they see Gillian. Alan is winded, but not having any chest pains.
Gillian says Robbie is bringing Raff back home tonight. She’s invited Robbie (Dean Andrews) to dinner and seems excited about it. She’s bought food and wine and wants to celebrate. She tells her dad Robbie apologized last night.
Caroline breezes in at home – her afternoon with Kate must have gone well, she’s very happy. John wants to know where she’s been. He wants to know who it is. Caroline wants to know if Judith is pretty – he says no. He says he thought they were going to try to make it work for the boys. He says he can’t stay there if she’s going to sleep around. She says, well maybe we should get divorced. She says if she’s going to be with someone she wants to have them at the house where she can have them any time she’d like. Caroline says it’s like a fog has lifted from her, that she’s happy for the first time in years. John says, “You’re not moving him in here.” Caroline says, “It’s not a he.”
Tony Gardner’s rendition of processing this announcement is absolutely perfect! Caroline is going on and on about something related to the boys but I can’t hear it for laughing so hard at the expressions rolling across Tony Gardners’ face. He’s gobsmacked.
Gillian phones and the two women discover that they share the same birthday. They both turn 46 tomorrow. They’re twins!
John, in the garden, calls Judith (Ronni Ancona).
Robbie and Gillian are saying goodnight. He asks her out for a meal and she says yes. He kisses her, a move she rather likes. She asks him to stay. He refuses.
William (Edward Ashley) wakes Caroline on the couch and says she should go to bed. He asks her if she’s seeing someone and if it’s Kate McKenzie. She bumbles around a bit and he says, “She’s nice, she’s interesting, she’s kind. I want you to be happy.”
Next morning Alan presents the Land Rover – and the clutch – to Gillian. She’ll have to install the clutch herself.
A car roars up and dumps Paul on the ground. His mother won’t have him. Maybe because he keeps calling her a bitch. Gillian walks away and leaves him in sprawled in the dirt.
At Judith’s, John is talking to Judith about how Caroline couldn’t be a lesbian. “Aren’t you quaint?” says Judith. She wants to know what it’s like to get hot and steamy with a woman. Then she points out that the woman he’s been living with for 18 years has probably been faking it every single time. Caroline calls and tells him she’s cooking for her “friend” and the boys that night for her birthday. She wants him to join them if he can behave like an adult. He finally clicks on the fact that he knows who the woman must be – the woman Caroline had in the garden.
Celia and Alan, still searching for a wedding venue, are looking at an impersonal public space. They talk about a chapel at Caroline’s school. That might be the answer.
Gillian is installing the clutch when John calls. He says she gives such good advice he wants to come talk to her. She tells him okay.
Caroline is cooking, drinking wine, and so happy she’s almost dancing. She answers the door to find Kate. William wants Kate to come play Scrabble with him and Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) before dinner.
Kate agrees to Scrabble, but steals a few kisses before she goes. Caroline says William knows about them and is being brilliant about it.
On the farm, John, Robbie, Paul and Raff are lined up like ducks in the living room. Gillian is pacing the floor in her bedroom. Alan and Celia arrive from their venue search. Alan again brings up the “manslaughter” he confessed earlier. She again reassures him. They go in laden with boxes and sacks from shopping.
Gillian tries to warn Celia about John and what’s going on. She can’t quite get it out about Caroline and Kate. John, who naturally is drunk, manages to announce that Caroline is a lesbian in the most offensive way. And Celia is indeed offended – both by the thought that her daughter is a lesbian and by John’s behavior. She gets very upset. Alan and Robbie try to shut John’s ranting down. Celia says it’s wicked to say things like that. She wants to go home.
Caroline’s dinner with Kate and the boys is going well when Judith appears at the door. She’s drunk and looking for John. She’s dropped a wine bottle on the sidewalk. She talks about how she always wanted to be with a woman. She keels over backwards and when Caroline goes to help her Judith is covered with blood from the broken glass. Caroline takes her to the hospital.
Caroline’s at the hospital and Kate is back at Caroline’s with the boys. She’s talking with Lawrence. He knows his mother is seeing someone but doesn’t know who it is for sure. Gillian calls and wants him to tell his mother that Celia is on her way home and very upset about Caroline’s relationship with . . . with . . . with . . . Gillian can’t say it, but Lawrence says, “Kate.” Gillian says, yes, Kate. Everyone important to Caroline now knows about Kate.
Robbie is leaving for the evening. He says good night and kisses Gillian again. She goes into the living room and sits down to have a drink with John. John says he only came over because he wanted to see her again. He keeps thinking about her.
It’s late, Alan is tired. He’s driving Celia back home. He pulls the car over to rest his eyes for a few minutes. Celia is upset, won’t look at him. We got a glimpse at Celia’s conservative politics when she and Alan were taking politics a couple of days ago in the church. Her conservatism may cause trouble between her and her daughter when she gets home. Gillian got a new car for her birthday. Caroline’s about to get an earful for hers.
Gillian and John have a few drinks. Gillian tells John she can’t decide if he’s an evil git. He says he’s not horrible, just disappointingly human. She says, “Do you want to go upstairs,” and rubs his thigh. Paul is out of commission, Robbie’s being honorable. John it is. Will he be honorable, too? We don’t find out in this episode.
This is Caroline and Gillian’s episode. It’s the rainy evening when Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) are trapped in the spooky hall they scouted as a wedding location. Gillian (Nicola Walker) is outside with firemen who responded to her flaming Land Rover. She returns to the house, anxious because her dad isn’t home yet and isn’t answering his phone.
Paul (Sacha Dhawan), in all his bloody, beat-up glory on her couch, asks how the fire started. She says they don’t know, but he says someone torched it.
In the old hall, Celia and Alan found candles, food, a deck of cards and a bed. They are on the bed, still wearing their coats. They sing and talk to the creaking noises that might be a ghost. Alan is having chest pains, which he hides from Celia. Alan says, “Do you think anyone’s realized that we’re missing?”
Indeed, pretty much everyone will know they are missing before long. Gillian calls John (Tony Gardner) looking for the two tardy lovers. John gives the phone to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), who takes note of the fact that John has Gillian’s number and she has his while talking to Gillian about calling her mother. Celia doesn’t answer her phone either.
Gillian mentions that her dad doesn’t have his heart pills and shows her worry, which gets through to Caroline.
Celia flushes a noisy toilet in the old hall, while Alan stands guard with candles and a guide book to the age of this ancient structure they’re stuck in. Drafts and noisy spook them a bit.
Gillian calls her son Raff (Josh Bolt) looking for Alan. Robbie (Dean Andrews) offers his usual trash talk about Gillian and Raff actually stands up for her. Raff offers to go to the farm and to help find his grandad.
Caroline sets off for the police station, as the fears about the missing parents have infected her too.
The fearful spookiness of the hall is making Celia angry and she’s talking about suing. They climb back into the big bed as candles move around and doors open themselves.
Raff and Robbie reach the farm. A couple of Alan’s friends show up, mainly for comic relief. At least they notice Paul sitting on the couch, which is more than Robbie and Raff have mentioned yet.
In the car, Caroline is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya), who brings up Caroline’s suggestion that they go away for the weekend. Kate is looking at a web site about Barcelona and is ready to book a getaway. Caroline says, “Can we talk about it later?” When she reaches the police station, the two old buddies of Alan’s are still about, still bringing the comic relief. Robbie explains that police cameras will tell them where the car was last seen. Gillian suggests they all go home.
Caroline goes with them to the farm. Caroline points at Paul on the couch, asks who he is. Robbie and Raff explain that he’s Paul, an idiot, who was beat up because he’s “not popular.”
Robbie follows Gillian into the kitchen and they finally have the conversation they’ve needed to have for days about what she’s doing with Paul. She says, “It’s been 10 years, do you seriously think I haven’t slept with other people?” He stumbles around and finally admits that all his lashing out was because he likes Gillian himself, a fact obvious to everyone but Gillian all this time. He basically apologizes and she says she appreciates it.
A phone call informs them the car was seen driving on Godley Lane. There’s a discussion about what’s on that road. Nobody knows why they are there, until Paul says, “You can get married at South Whatever Hall.” (I still can’t get the name.) They realize then that Alan and Celia were there looking for a wedding venue.
Cops arrive outside the hall where Alan and Celia are now sleeping peacefully. The cops find the empty car parked there but don’t think to look inside the hall because the manager of the place tells them the Hall was closed all day.
John, home with his boys, talks about not wanting to get a divorce. The younger son gets quite upset over the idea of a divorce.
Caroline and Gillian are cleaning up the kitchen at the farm, washing dishes. They talk. Really talk. They talk about Raff, Paul, John, themselves. Caroline isn’t holding it together very well and welcomes the offer of brandy with enthusiasm. They are starting to care about each other. If two women ever needed a friend, it’s these two. Happy as I am that Alan and Celia found each other, I’m even happier to see these two connect – they both desperately need someone to talk with.
A phone call tells them they’ve found the car, but not Alan and Celia. The police think Alan and Celia have killed themselves, to which Gillian answers, “They’re in love. They’ve never been happier.” Robbie reassures everyone about the situation and offers to go to the hall.
Morning comes and Caroline and Gillian sit outside drinking coffee (tea?). Again, they have a meaningful conversation. This time about Gillian’s husband’s death, about how beautiful what their parents feel for each other is. Gillian talks about how much it bothers her that her mother didn’t pass on the message from Caroline’s mum. Caroline tells her that her mother was a teenager then, and it shouldn’t be held against her. Gillian’s parents were happy. Caroline’s were not. They talk about that, laugh that they might have been sisters.
Celia and Alan wake up, snuggled deep in the covers of their borrowed bed. Celia complains about being stiff but is in a hurry to get out of there. When they get downstairs there are people there who tell them that you have to dial 9 for an outside line and the door was open yesterday for a delivery. Celia wants to call home and finds out the police have been looking for them.
Caroline talks to John about how things are at home with the boys as the phone rings at the farm. It’s Celia calling to say everything is fine. Caroline runs outside with Raff to tell Gillian. There are happy hugs all round, including Gillian and Raff, who definitely needed the shared moment.
John tells his boys they can stay home from school and he heads off for the “supermarket.”
Caroline and Gillian help Paul up the stairs and into bed. This removes him from the living room, but, alas, installs him in Gillian’s bed. Gillian tells him he’ll be out on his ass sooner than he can say compound fracture if he says anything vulgar to Celia.
Alan’s first thought on getting home is for the Land Rover. They go in for tea and Alan’s pills. Gillian explains why Paul’s car is in the yard.
John’s in a coffee shop, where he gives Judith (Ronni Ancona) money for her rent. She wants to be a writer and thought he was going to be a help to her. He tells her she has to put in the work or it won’t happen. She’s mad. He’s busy trying to dump her for good.
Tea in hand, Celia still wants to sue. Caroline points out that you can’t accept the very classy venue free of charge for the wedding and sue at the same time.
In the kitchen, Alan, Gillian and Raff have a family discussion about Paul. Alan says, “You always did pick ’em.” To Raff, he says, “You can’t be stopping with Robbie.” Raff answers he doesn’t mind his mom having a boyfriend but why can’t she pick on somebody who, A, isn’t a dickhead; B, isn’t 300 years younger than she is; and C, isn’t engaged to somebody else. After this most excellent speech he exits. This gives Alan the opportunity to say he wants to go to the doctor. He makes light of his condition, but Gillian knows it’s serious. She makes him promise to call immediately.
When Caroline leaves Gillian hugs her and tells her not to be depressed. Instead of going straight home, Caroline stops for coffee. She watches a happy family and smiles – some decision made, she relaxes visibly.
Alan tells Celia he’s poured her a bubble bath. She says he’s spoiling her. He gives her a kiss. He offers to have coffee ready when she gets out of the bath and heads for the kitchen, where we see him stunned by more chest pain.
Caroline arrives home where John is being cloyingly nice. He brags that he promised himself never to lie to her again, and tells her about giving money to Judith. Everyone is exhausted from being up all night, but John is invigorated by his honestly. Caroline says, “This can work. We can be civil for the boys. I’m seeing someone.” Boom! She won’t tell John who it is. John yells and rages. William comes in and John asks who Caroline could be seeing at school. William instantly realizes it’s Kate, but doesn’t tell his dad that. He’s been so angry with his dad for cheating on his mom. I hope he doesn’t transfer that anger to his mom, because I think his little brother really needs him now. John won’t take finding out about Kate well and Caroline isn’t the best at explaining herself to her children.
Whee! What did you think of this week’s developments?
Last week, Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) drove off with her two boys and Celia (Anne Reid), leaving John (Tony Gardner) standing in the middle of the road at the farm. That’s where we start up this week, with Caroline having an emotional breakdown in the car as she drives erratically away.
Caroline stops the car and gets out. Her oldest son, (Edward Ashley) follows and says he’s sorry about telling her about his dad having Judith in the house. The younger son (Louis Greatorex) follows and the three of them end up in a hug.
Alan (Derek Jacobi) arrives at the police station, where Gillian (Nicola Walker) is waiting for the release of her son Raff (Josh Bolt). Gillian asks her dad is he is angry about her mother’s trick. He says no, he has no regrets. Policeman Robbie (Dean Andrews), who is Raff’s uncle – the one who blames Gillian for his brother’s death – brings Raff out. Robbie makes a remark that Gillian ignores about Paul and they leave.
When Gillian, Alan, and Raff get home, they find John half drunk in the living room. Can’t let all that booze from the engagement party go to waste, now can he? Gillian and John chat in a commiserating way.
Gillian goes to check on Raff. They have a brief exchange. He won’t tell her what Paul was saying about her, and she doesn’t attempt to explain her relationship with Paul.
Alan offers to drive John home in the morning. He asks him not to drink any more. He doesn’t want John throwing up in the new Lexus before Celia’s even had a chance to ride in it! John explains to Gillian about Judith. Gillian says his house is half his and doesn’t see how Caroline can throw him out. He needs to stick up for himself.
In the morning, Alan delivers John to the big house. John blusters in loud and yelling about cooking breakfast and pancakes.
Alan has a bouquet of flowers and knocks on Celia’s door. She’s still in her bathrobe but brings in him and makes him tea.
In the big house John is playing the radio loudly, tossing pans about, singing, and generally acting like he owns the place.
Celia asks Alan if he believes in God. She says she wants to get married in a church. Alan says you don’t have to believe in God to get married in church.
Caroline comes down stairs and John and Caroline conduct a screaming argument that Alan and Celia listen to gleefully. They have a giggling fit while John and Caroline yell at each other.
Gillian tries once more to get Raff to talk to her, but he won’t. She heads off to work. As she’s heading in to the grocery store, Paul comes out. He says he told Raff about the wallpaper in her bedroom and the shoes in her closet to make him believe that he really knew Gillian. She goes into the store and pulls her hair in anguish. She can’t believe she’s involved herself with a fool who would brag to her son about getting into her bed. In a very poignant moment she thumbs through the contacts in her phone, wanting to talk to someone. She looks at Raff’s name and doesn’t call. She looks at her Dad’s name and doesn’t call. Just as she gives up on talking to someone, John calls her. He goes on about how he stuck up for himself and how happy he is with his behavior at home. He thinks Gillian’s a “sweet, exotic creature.” Oh, dear.
Caroline meantime is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya) who gives her very sensible advice like “divorce him and sell the house.” Caroline isn’t quite ready to face this yet, but asks Kate to come over to talk to her.
Caroline goes outside and throws a bucket of water on John. Another loud argument the whole family can hear. She says the marriage is over, dead, and redundant. He refuses to leave.
Alan and Celia are parked on a beautiful scenic overlook holding hands and getting acquainted by exchanging stories. Her marriage was not a happy one. She tells Alan a story about a time when she could have killed her husband but didn’t. However, she vowed to do it if she ever got another chance. Alan is sad she had to go through all that. She asks him to spend the night in her cottage – in the spare room. He grins and says, “I’d have to buy a toothbrush.”
Gillian arrives home from work and finds Raff has moved out. He won’t answer his phone but she finds him at his Uncle Robbie’s. Robbie says he thinks the boy has finally figured out what a mad bitch she is and that he can stay with him as long as he wants. Gillian’s response to this latest upset is to call John. Oh, good grief, she calls John. Her loneliness already has her up to her butt in alligators with Paul, and she calls John. They have a long heart-to-heart about affairs, parenting and John’s marriage.
While John and Gillian are on the phone, Caroline and Kate are talking in the garden.
Kate complains that Caroline’s never really asked anything about her. Caroline seems to expect sympathy with nothing in return. They talk about Michael and how he tried to blackmail Caroline. Kate talks about “the effect” Caroline has on her. Caroline tries to explain her feelings. She talks about not knowing how to be a good friend to anyone or how to have a happy relationship. She describes her early life and how unhappy her parents were. Caroline talked about how different Celia is with Alan than she was with her dad, and how different her life might have been if her mother had loved her father.
Alan and Celia are in her cottage, asleep on the couch, holding hands.
Gillian comes out of the farmhouse in the morning to find Paul, bloodied and horribly beaten in her yard. It wasn’t Raff who did it. I couldn’t understand what he said when he explained who beat him up, but apparently he’s in some sort of trouble. [Note: this part of the story is explained in addendums and a comment. Keep reading.] Someone has threatened to douse him with gasoline and set him afire. She takes him to the doctor.
Caroline is having breakfast. Celia pops in to say she and Alan are going to Halifax. She says they slept together in her double bed, which Caroline is desperate not to hear about. Celia claims they had marvelous sex. (I’m wondering if this really happened or if Celia is exaggerating the truth. All we saw was snuggling on the couch.) Caroline holds her ears.
Gillian reluctantly takes Paul back to the farm after his doctor visit. He isn’t welcome at his own home.
In William’s classroom, Caroline comes in and sends the instructor (Kate) off. She touches Kate’s shoulder in a familiar way. She sits down to watch the students while the Kate is gone. The boy in front of William writes, “Your mum is a lesbian” on his hand and shows it to William.
Judith calls John and wants money. When he doesn’t want to give it to her, she threatens to come to his house.
Alan and Celia are sitting in a church, waiting to talk to the vicar. They have a very funny argument about religion, politics, The Daily Mail and pop songs at funerals. They end up laughing. Celia mentions she wants to walk down the aisle to the strains of “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. These two are so lovely together.
Celia says she hopes the vicar isn’t a woman. So, of course, the vicar is a woman who questions them about why they want to get married in a church when they haven’t been churchgoers since the 70s. They leave – the church isn’t going to work.
Alan says, “Where would you like to get wed?” and Celia says, “Somewhere classy.” South something Hall – I didn’t get the name of the hall correctly.
Raff returns home to pick up his belongings and finds Paul on the couch, all beat up. Robbie, who drove Raff home, figures out that Gillian has been involved with Paul and tells Gillian she needs to have her head examined. Gillian asks Raff to stay and tells him that she can’t chuck Paul out. Raff leaves anyway.
Alan and Celia arrive at the Hall where they are thinking about holding the wedding. There’s no one about, so they wander through rooms full of an assortment of memorabilia. Alan tells about seeing a ghost in one of the upstairs rooms. They climb spiral stairs and wander through chapels and finally find the room where he saw the ghost. Odd dolls with strange eyes populate the room. There’s a flash of lightning and the lights go out. Celia gets uncomfortable and wants to go. I’m with her – this place is spooky. They race for the exit.
They are locked in. With no reception on their phones and a storm raging outside.
At the farm there’s a flash of light and a boom. Gillian rushes outside to find her Land Rover ablaze in the rain.
All images © The BBC.
ADDENDUM: I wasn’t the only person who could not understand what Paul said about why he was beaten up. I’m seeing people show up on this blog who want to know what he said as well. If any reader could understand him and knows what happened to Paul, please fill us in with a comment. Thanks!
ANOTHER ADDENDUM: I found this on IMDB’s summary of episode 3: “Later a badly injured Paul arrives, beaten up by his girlfriend’s brothers, and she lets him move in.” So that solves the mystery of what he so poorly articulated, It also emphasizes the point, which I did not in my summary, that Gillian revealed to John that part of Paul’s unsuitableness as affair material was that he already had a girlfriend. I love how broken and troubled Gillian is, but I’m ready for her to do something smarter. Like maybe not let an already entangled dude who thinks it appropriate to brag to her teen-aged kid about banging her set up residence on her couch.
We begin back in the cafe where the two daughters went last week to retrieve their parents. They are shocked when the newly engaged Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) announce to their children that they are getting married. Instead of congratulations for the announcement, Gillian (Nicola Walker) rushes off to the loo and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) claims to be too busy to stay and chat.
Our old young lovers agree to talk tomorrow as the children rush them off. They look at each other with so much affection, it’s simply lovely.
In the car, Celia tries to convince her daughter Caroline that she’s serious. Caroline blows her off by saying she doesn’t have time to think about it. It’s clear that she doesn’t think a marriage will actually happen.
Gillian asks her dad what the hell on earth he thinks he’s doing. He tries to explain about how her mother tricked him by not delivering Celia’s note all those years ago, but he doesn’t quite get it out.
Next day at school Kate (Nina Sosanya) tells Caroline that she told another teacher named Michael about her relationship with Caroline. Kate said all she told was they kissed a couple of times.
Celia calls Alan and says she wants to come over. She asks Caroline’s errant husband John (Tony Gardner) for a ride to rent a car. He asks her to put in a good word for him with Caroline. She doesn’t say she’ll help, but instead asks what he thinks about her news.
At the farm, Gillian tells her father that she thinks she should tell her son Raff (Josh Bolt) that his father actually committed suicide because Raff’s uncle keeps raising the issue of the father’s death.
John calls Caroline at school to see if she will agree to go out to dinner with him. He says he finds the relationship between Celia and Alan life-affirming. Caroline still continues to blow it off. I have to say I agree with John on this one. When he hangs up the phone he finds his girlfriend Judith (Ronni Ancona) at the door. That can’t be good.
At the school, Michael comes into Caroline’s office. He tries to intimidate and threaten her with his knowledge about her and Kate. Her response is, “Sod off, you little prick. Do you really think you can humiliate me? Go for it, genius, spread a few rumors. It will say more about you than it ever will about me. This is 2012. I was single. She’s single. We’re adults. We had a fling. The ladies have landed. Quite a long time ago in fact. Get over it.”
At Caroline’s house, John and Judith are discussing their breakup. Judith wants him back. They start drinking. That can’t be good, either.
At the farm Alan drags a box of photos down from the attic. He and Gillian look through some of them. There are photos of her mother, and her mother with both Alan and Celia. Once again he muffs the chance to explain to her that the only reason he ended up with her mother instead of Celia was because her mother tricked him. Celia arrives in her rented car. In Alan’s eyes it’s like the sun just came out. They talk about where they might live after they are married. His little house, which is currently rented. At the farm. In her cottage at Caroline’s. Three choices, no decision.
Gillian is using rocks to rebuild a wall when her bad boy lover Paul (Sacha Dhawan) drives up. Just as he asks if anyone is at her house, Celia and Alan drive by on their way to lunch. Well, no one’s at the house. Quickie time for Gillian and Paul.
On the drive into town, Celia suggests to Alan that they sell both their small cars and buy one car – something they’ve always fancied. Alan may be dazzled when he learns exactly what Celia’s always fancied.
John and Caroline’s eldest son William (Edward Ashley) arrives home from school to find John and Judith drunk. In his eyes, his dad is now officially a wanker. Gotta say I agree with him, even though John technically is innocent of any wrong doing on this particular occasion. Just as Judith heads out the door, Caroline phones and says yes to going out to dinner with John sometime. I love the way the writers framed these two phone calls about a dinner date for the reunited married folks with Judith’s arrival and departure.
In an auto showroom, Celia and Alan are looking at a red Lexus convertible. You read that right. A red convertible. While they look at the car, they exchange stories about their kids. Celia doesn’t understand why Caroline let John come back. Alan reveals his son-in-law’s suicide. They have trouble getting the salesman to take them seriously and let them drive the car. Ageism is rampant even in the UK.
At the farm, Gillian and Paul have finished their little love fest, and she tells him to bugger off. After he goes, she looks in the mirror with one of those what the hell am I doing looks.
The car salesman is finally talking deal with our favorite lovers. It will cost them about 10,000 (euros? pounds?) each. Turns out Celia drives a hard bargain.
They decide to have an engagement party on Saturday at the farm.
The minute Gillian gets her dad alone again, she brings up the question of telling Raff about the suicide. Alan agrees that it needs to be done. He tells Gillian he thinks it’s wise, one of the kindest things I’ve ever heard a parent say to a child in a television show.
When Gillian does tell Raff, he asks several questions. She tries to reassure him. She talks about how everyone has demons, a line of thought that seems to apply to her more than her dead husband. She mentions that Raff’s dad had a wonderful side and a dark side, and assures him that he doesn’t have a dark side like that. He’s like her dad – kind, thoughtful, balanced.
Celia arrives back home and tells Caroline about the party on Saturday at Alan’s house. They talk a while, giving Celia a chance to explain her feelings and how she doesn’t see her behavior as “rushing.”
This episode is full of deep conversations between parents and their children.
On Saturday morning, as they prepare to go to the engagement party, Caroline almost tells John about Kate, then changes her mind and talks about being snotty to Gillian instead. Then she tells him he can start sleeping in the bedroom with her again.
The engagement party starts off well, conversation is flowing. Alan stands up to give a speech and finally tells the tale of the deception that lead to him and Celia losing touch. Gillian looks gobsmacked when she realizes the implications of the story. As they toast the happy couple, the new Lexus is delivered. Everyone rushes outside to see it. The two daughters finally share a moment of bonding as they look at each other in dismay over their parents car buying behavior.
During the excitement over the new car, the police drive up to take Raff away because he assaulted Paul. Seems Paul was talking about his mother in a way Raff didn’t like. Gillian doesn’t have time to explain to Raff and the police that she’s been shagging Paul. During the arrest, William tells his mom about Judith being at their house. Finally convinced that John is a wanker, Caroline leaves him standing in the middle of the road at the farm and tells him he can’t come back. Feeling guilty about Kate is one thing, but a wanker is a wanker is a wanker. John is yelling at Caroline that she can’t leave him there when Celia walks up and slaps him.
As if Gillian hasn’t had enough to deal with already, we can look forward to learning in episode 3 whether or not she will claim her relationship with Paul or continue to try to hide him from her family. I’m also eager to find out where Celia and Alan are going to live.
What did you think of episode 2? What do you think will happen next?
All images ©BBC.
Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.
Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.
Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.
Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.
In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.
PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.
All images ©BBC.