Maggie Smith couldn't be more perfect for the title role in this film if it were written for her. But the most astounding thing about this story is that it's true, an event from playwright-screenwriter Alan Bennett's own life. The film cleverly plays with the idea of a writer telling his own story. And it also gives Smith an unforgettable role in a movie that's both entertaining and sharply pointed.
It happened in 1970 Camden, as neighbours worried about a homeless woman parking her van in front of their houses. She turns out to be Mary Shepard (Smith), and resident Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) offers to let her park her van in his driveway for a few months. She stayed there for 15 years, during which Alan refuses to pry into Mary's personal life and she turns a blind eye to the steady flow of young gentleman callers at his door. Even so, over the years Alan learns some details about Mary's past as a musician, ambulance driver and nun, and that she became homeless because she was on the run from the police.
Bennett takes a cheeky approach to the script, writing two versions of himself: one who lives his life and one who writes about it. The interaction between the two is cleverly played by Jennings and directed with offhanded hilarity by Hytner, who shot the movie in the actual street and house where the events took place. Jennings also adds some emotional interest in Alan's relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), who ironically has to move into a nursing home. Opposite him, Smith is as magnetic as ever, reeling off each pithy one-liner with impeccable timing. The role may not seem like much of a stretch, but she delivers it with a prickly mix of attitude and humour, plus a strong undercurrent of pathos.
Continue reading: The Lady In The Van Review
Dame Maggie Smith's New Movie The Lady In The Van Features A Cameo From Beloved British Playwright Alan Bennett, Who Is Portrayed In The Film By Actor Alex Jennings.
Bennett, who adapted the screenplay from his own book about his experiences with an enigmatic homeless lady who lived in a van parked on his property in London, cycles into view in the film's final scene and watches as Jennings' Bennett unveils a blue plaque to 'The Lady in the Van' at his Camden, London home.
Continue reading: Alan Bennett Enjoys Hitchcock-esque Cameo In The Lady In The Van
Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small dilapidated van. She asks for nothing from her community, other than to be allowed her peace and to have a place to park her van. Constantly being moved by authorities, she finds herself taking up residence on Alan Bennett's road, much to the displeasure of his house proud neighbours. Despite her prickly disposition and shameless boldness, Bennett - a man of more timid and awkward nature - takes an immediate shine to Miss Shepherd, offering her his driveway to park her vehicle on a temporary basis. Soon, though, just a few weeks turns into fifteen long years as this impoverished musical scholar and this lowly gentleman of humble background become unlikely yet inseparable friends - a friendship rocked by Miss Shepherd's eventual ill health which soon strikes a sadness in the heart of the whole town.
Continue: Lady In The Van - Alternative Trailer
'The Lady In The Van' director Nicholas Hytner, producer Kevin Loader and writer Alan Bennett - on whose life the film is based - ponder over the excellence of leading lady Maggie Smith in the role of an educated yet poverty stricken old woman named Miss. Shepherd.
Continue: The Lady In The Van - Featurette
Once upon a time, a normal man lived in a normal house on a normal street. Then, something extraordinary happened. An educated woman - a scholar of both music and art - who lives in a van, takes up residence on the road. Miss Shepard (Maggie Smith) is insistent on staying in her van on the street, and the man (Alan Bennett), invites her to park her mobile home in his driveway in order to relieve his neighbours of the site. They agree she will stay for three weeks; she ends up staying for fifteen years.
Continue: Lady In The Van Trailer
Stylish and moody, this twisty dramatic thriller gets under our skin with its mysterious tone and darkly insinuating performances. But the script is badly underwritten, never quite connecting the dots between what happens on screen. Several of the events are frankly unbelievable, which is made more frustrating by characters who continually do things that don't make logical sense. So we end up struggling to see the point of it all.
Everything happens in the wake of a massive explosion at a holiday house in the south of France. Micky (Middleton) wakes up with amnesia, having had her face rebuilt by surgeons. But her childhood best pal Domenica (Roach in flashbacks) died in the fire, leaving a huge hole in her life. Her guardian (Kerry Fox) tries to help her return to her daily routine, but she's obsessed with piecing together the nagging puzzle about what happened. And she doesn't really want to be the person she apparently was before the accident. Her old boyfriend Jake (Bernard) is some help, but the more she learns about her former life, the more she wonders who she really is.
The insinuation from the very start is that Micky and Do may have swapped identities in the accident, which seems rather ridiculous since they aren't the same height. Reconstructive surgery can't overcome that, and their different coloured hair would become obvious pretty quickly. So every time writer-director Softley tries to drop a hint or throw us off the trail, we feel like we're being had. At least he maintains a terrific sense of film noir creepiness, with lush visuals and scenes that draw us in to make us wonder what will happen next. And there is the tantalising possibility that the swap is psychological.
Continue reading: Trap For Cinderella Review
Micky is an avid photographer enjoying her nightly social revelry in London until she bumps into an old friend from her childhood. Do is almost the opposite of Micky; she is quiet and reserved, but the pair immediately click as if no time had passed since they last saw each other. A passion that has long laid dormant is re-ignited between them despite the disapproval of those around them but little do they know that their star-crossed relationship is set to end in tragedy when they escape to the French villa where they had spent their summers together as kids. A fire breaks out causing the death of Do and some severe burns and amnesia for Micky. While she struggles to recall memories from her life, she is forced to re-learn her relationships with friends, family and former lovers while trying to make sense of who she is at the same time, with only the word of the people around her to guide her.
Continue: Trap For Cinderella Trailer
There isn't a narrative, although the film is arranged to recount an epic journey using voice-over readings from authors like Homer, Sophocles, Milton, Shakespeare, Beckett and Nietzsche. There are also title-card quotes, songs and music, including some pieces performed in old film clips (such as Leontyne Price singing Motherless Child). Meanwhile we see a collage of old film clips and crisp new footage shot in snowy Alaska featuring silent men in yellow, blue and black parkas that obscure their faces.
Continue reading: The Nine Muses Review
When the disturbed teen Matthew (Treadaway) comes home from hospital to live with his father (Wise), the tension is sharp enough to cut with a knife. And neither wants to talk to their care worker (Jennings). Both are still stunned by the disappearance of younger brother Tom (Palmer), who Matthew starts to see and hear around the grim London estate where they live. His best pal (Felton) thinks he's nuts, but a shy neighbour (Leeming) offers an understanding ear.
And as more strange things happen, Matthew starts to lose focus on reality.
Continue reading: The Disappeared Review
It begins with the landslide election of Prime Minister Tony Blair (a shockingly good Michael Sheen) and moves to the car accident that led to Di's death. Frears then meditates on the decisions and the struggle between modernism and tradition that Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) and her family must consider in the wake of not just a familial, but worldwide, day of mourning. For those who don't remember, after the death, there was major pressure for the family to mourn in public, to show their grief and prove that even though Di wasn't part of the family anymore, they were still in a state of solemnity.
Continue reading: The Queen Review
Maggie Smith couldn't be more perfect for the title role in this film if it...
Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small...
'The Lady In The Van' director Nicholas Hytner, producer Kevin Loader and writer Alan Bennett...
Stylish and moody, this twisty dramatic thriller gets under our skin with its mysterious tone...
Micky is an avid photographer enjoying her nightly social revelry in London until she bumps...
More like a cinematic poem or art installation than a movie, this swirly collection of...
Vividly creepy atmospherics and a strong cast set this film apart, although it's ultimately let...