Dear Emma Thompson

Art & Culture

Dear Emma Thompson,

I imagine you must be a tad embarrassed at being in the public eye as a result of what Meryl said about Disney, even though she was praising you to the skies. But it deserved to be said.

The fact is that Saving Mr Banks is a Traversty of a film, only redeemed by your saving grace as the author of Mary Poppins who loathed what Disney did with her book, contrary to the impression left by the film. Yet you walk away with your reputation unblemished, because you are – as Streep says – practically a saint, who has illuminated cinema screens for well over 20 years, and remains a bona fide national treasure, in the best possible way.

I watched Carrington again the other day, the film you made with Jonathan Pryce in 1995 (nearly 20 years ago already), and thought once again how you have this amazing capacity to be yourself on screen, yet play a wide variety of roles. Starting with The Tall Guy in 1989 (after 7 years of TV fame), you have made a series of films remarkably few of which can truly be said to be stinkers. There are a couple of course, notably Dead Again in which you allowed then-husband Kenneth Branagh to indulge a misplaced conviction that he had a talent for film noir. I would also point the finger of blame at you for showing up in Junior, a horrendous comedy with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which I must assume was the result of a suggestion from a deranged agent.

Apart from that, all i can see are a series of gems. Let me mention Wit, a made for TV HBO movie about a English literature professor (specialising in the poems of John Donne) who is dying in hospital. I have shown it to a series of medical students and they have never failed to be profoundly upset by it. And while we're on the HBO trail, Angels In America must be mentioned. Alongside your mate Meryl, you adopt a series of interesting roles, mainly as one of cinema's sexiest and scariest angels.

You were a silly (but not vicious) French aristocrat in Impromptu, wonderfully human as Margaret Schlegel in the Merchant/Ivory Howard's End, excellent in almost every Branagh co-production (except Dead Again of course) including Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V, and while we're on the period dramas, a mention is deserved for Sense & Sensibility which you also adapted for the screen, since screenwriting is another string to your bow.

And if people want to criticise you for Love Actually, they should remember that the Joni Mitchell CD scene is the single most moving part of what remains (inexplicably) a very popular film. You've done Harry Potter with success, were an excellent Lady Marchmain in the Brideshead Revisited movie that few people saw, upstaged Mary Poppins in 2 Nanny McPhee films, had a great supporting role in An Education, and were a love interest for Dustin Hoffman in Last Chance Harvey – shame about the age gap, but that's Hollywood.

There'll probably be an Oscar nomination for P L Travers, and this year we can look forward to the somewhat delayed Effie Gray, another script from your laptop. The fact that you have not yet tried to direct a film suggests that this is an ambition that doesn't stir your soul; it can't be for lack of conviction or self-belief. Not that you're arrogant, but I feel you know your worth and would do it if you wanted to.

So, yes, this is an uncritically admiring letter, because you continue to amaze me with your sang froid, intelligence and beauty on screen. You represent the best of what I like about cinema, not too stuck up, nor too girly, unashamed to reveal the fact that you're smart without insisting on it, a great interviewee, and, as the cherry on the cake, a seeming ability to live a relatively ordinary life, and say what you think about things. In fact, without any evidence at all, and contrary to the beginning of this letter, I wouldn't be surprised if you were quite happy for Meryl to say what she did about Disney, as a tactful way of letting the world know your true beliefs.

All I need now if for you and George Clooney to make a film together, and then I could die a happy man.