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The Crack Magazine



Director: Richard Eyre

Stars: Judi Dench, Bally Gill, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey, David Bradley, Derek Jacobi

Richard Eyre’s adaptation of Alan Bennett’s play, scripted for screen by Heidi ‘Call the Midwife’ Thomas, is a warts and all love letter to the NHS and the doughty staff who keep it running. Bally Gill is resident physician Dr Valentine, a conscientious head doctor in Wakefield geriatric hospital called – wait for it – The Bethlehem, presided over by the soon-to-retire and no-nonsense head nurse Sister Gilpin (Saunders). Patients include the cattily pedantic former English teacher Ambrose (Jacobi doing the Jacobi thing), the meek Mary (Dench) and the curmudgeonly ex-miner Joe (Bradley). The future of the hospital is put in doubt by the arrival of a costs-fixated management consultant Colin (Tovey) who has a personal connection to one of the patients. The estimable cast deliver the requisite deadpan mordant laughs from Bennett’s prose, but the pacing feels a little too languid and the script contrived and frequently didactic when situations should speak for themselves. The insertion of a crime element into proceedings is also jarring.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm