The Iron Lady should come with a health warning. Yes, Meryl Streep gives the performance of a lifetime as Lady Thatcher (all other contenders for the Oscar might as well give up now) but if one of your loved ones has dementia it’s a very tough film to watch.
“That was a bit hard to cope with,” whispered my husband as he left the cinema at top speed. I looked at him more closely and saw he had tears in his eyes. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and Streep’s performance, such an acute portrayal of this horrible illness, was simply too painful a reminder. I’m not in the least surprised that Margaret Thatcher’s family turned down an invitation to see the film.
That said, Streep is quite extraordinary in the film. Everything – her steely gaze, deep voice, mannerisms, walk, even the way she carries her handbag – are uncannily true to life. Watching scenes of her at the dispatch box in the House of Commons is like hurtling back 25 years in time.
Incidentally, the hero of the film is Denis Thatcher, brilliantly played by Jim Broadbent. In yesterday’s Financial Times, businessman David Tang called him “the greatest non-royal consort of our age” and that’s exactly how he comes across in the film. Convivial, loyal and ever supportive, Denis was clearly the rock that Lady T depended on throughout her career and beyond. A letter he sent to my mother after she requested a newspaper interview with him in the 1980s sticks in my mind. It was charming, ultra-polite and ended with a very firm response. “The answer,” he’d written, “is, of course, ‘no.’”