Phyllis Logan – The Last Bus

Image above: Timothy Spall in The Last Bus

Chiswick Cinema is currently showing The Last Bus, a film about an elderly couple played by Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan, who live in Scotland, in John O’Groats, having moved there when they were first married to get as far away as possible from their home in Cornwall, at Land’s End.

They left behind a great sadness and when she dies, many years later, he undertakes a pilgrimage, retracing their steps using local buses, back to Cornwall to do one last thing before he joins her.

Torin Douglas will be talking to Phyllis Logan about the film in front of an audience at The Chiswick Cinema on Tuesday 31 August, with a screening of the film at 6.00 pm.

Image above: Phyllis Logan

“It’s a sweet film” Phyllis tells The Chiswick Calendar “but it’s not going to set the world on fire”.

Critics have been a little underwhelmed, it’s true. Kevin Mayer in The Times says:

‘There are hints of a deeper, more authentic movie within this specious misfire … Spall … overdoes it, straying into Catherine Tate’s Nan territory’.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian calls it ‘A cliche-packed vehicle for Timothy Spall’ (bus … vehicle … geddit?) though concedes: ‘it is certainly acted with commitment and integrity by Timoth Spall’.

Phyllis appears in flashbacks. “I’m hardly in it” she says, sounding slightly reproachful that they cut a couple of her scenes, including a party for her retirement. The film might have been better if they’d kept them in, as she gives a stoical performance, facing death with acceptance and the scenes which hit the cutting room floor might have lifted the mood a bit. It could have done with a few laughs I thought.

Image above: Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan in The Last Bus

“It’s a nice piece” she says, “with a lot of heart and love”, which is true. She looks dreadful in it, as she is supposed to, as she is dying of cancer.

“They didn’t have an awful lot of work to do” she laughs, with typical modesty. In fact Bafta winning make up artist Christine Cant transforms her, but I suppose the fact that it was difficult to find a single picture of her in the film online does rather support her fleeting presence, though she is ever present in her husband Tom’s thoughts from beginning to end.

Image above: Timothy Spall in The Last Bus

“It was lovely to work with Tim again” she tells me. “He’s so lovely”.

The two last worked together playing husband and wife roles in Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies in 1996, which was nominated for five Oscars. They were a sad couple then, as in that film they couldn’t have children.

In the way of these things, Phyllis is hard pressed to remember details the filming, on the outskirts of Glasgow, as it was two years ago now. She is currently working on a film with Michael Sheen and Cary Elwes which doesn’t yet have a name, but will be out for Christmas (this Christmas!).

“There’s an element of Sliding Doors to it” she says. “It dots back and forward in time”.

If it weren’t for the pandemic she might now be touring the United States promoting the second Downton Abbey film. As it is, the release has been put back to March 2022 and there isn’t much appetite for tours of America.

Which is how she comes to be at home in Chiswick, chatting to Torin Douglas. She’s such good fun, even though the film is a bit sad, go and see it and her interview with Torin afterwards.

Book tickets here – Chiswick Cinema

Torin is the Director of the Chiswick Book Festival and was for many years the Media correspondent for the BBC.

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See also: Meanwhile in Brentford

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