The Lady in the Van (12A) ★★★★☆
This adaptation of Alan Bennett’s play about his 15 year friendship with an eccentric old lady (Maggie Smith) who lives in his driveway is a cosy film with a van-load (sorry) of charm. After an hour of ‘odd couple’ shenanigans between the two leads, the final act delivers the emotional gut punch you’ve been waiting for. Smith is superb in the title role, with Alex Jennings spot on as her withering straight man. A feel-good, sure-fire awards contender, despite its sidestepping of the deeper issues broached.
Tangerine (15) ★★★★★
Irate trans prostitute Sin-Dee and her best friend tear through LA in search of her cheating boyfriend/pimp in this off-beat comedy/drama. Shot on three iPhones, the direction and energy gives Tangerine the feel of something far more expensive. The seedy underbelly of the City of Angels is exposed in a somewhat familiar screwball comedy that tweaks traditional formulas to become something truly original. Stars Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez have incredible chemistry, making for a film that’s relentless and uncompromising; everything independent film should be.
Fathers and Daughters (15) ★☆☆☆☆
Russell Crowe follows up his directorial debut The Water Diviner with a drama that spends 116 mins redefining the word “mawkish”. Crowe plays a writer with PTSD whose difficulties have an effect on his young daughter (Amanda Seyfried) as she grows into adulthood. Crowe’s earnest approach does little to ignite a plot that would be too contrived for most soap operas, and two dimensional characters do nothing to hold your interest.
The Hallow (15) ★★★☆☆
Something nasty’s lurking in the woods in this low budget Irish horror, which follows a conservationist and his family who become targets for demonic creatures. What follows is a constant volley of scares that, as time goes on, actually hinder the film from becoming more than a jump-fest. Deeper meditations on the nature of myth and the environment are put to the side, but given the obligatory sequel tease at the film’s close, it at least provides a promising base for a second film.