The Lady In The Van

"Excellent"

The Lady In The Van Review


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.

Meanwhile, Hytner and Bennett pack the movie with real-life details that continually catch the audience off guard, adding comedy and mystery, plus an amusing depiction of English reticence and layers of curiosity. There's also a parade of starry faces in supporting roles, including virtually the entire cast of Hytner's production of Bennett's play The History Boys. The result is a gently entertaining movie that's packed with small surprises and a strikingly important message about communal compassion. And with a national treasure like Smith in the lead role, it's the kind of film that can make viewers see the world a little differently when they emerge from the cinema.
Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for The Lady In The Van here:




The Lady In The Van

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th January 2016

Budget: $6.1M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures

Production compaines: BBC Films, TriStar Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 16

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Miss Shepherd, as Alan Bennett, as Ursula Vaughan Williams, Gwen Taylor as Mam, as Theatre Actor, as Street Trader, as Rufus, as Jehovah's Witness, as Priest, as Underwood, as Doctor, Eleanor Matsuura as American Journalist, as Doctor Malik, as Donald, as Convent Housekeeper, Deborah Findlay as Pauline, as Mr. Fairchild, Elliot Levey as Director, Jamie Parker as Estate Agent, Geoffrey Streatfeild as Attractive Man, Harriet Thorpe as Customer, Rosalind Knight as Old Nun, June Watson as Woman at Day Centre, Pandora Colin as Mrs. Perry, George Taylor as Policeman, Richard Banks as Neighbour, Tom Coulston as Smiling Pallbearer, Aaron Neil as Grocer, Jessica Bastick-Vines as Pauline and Rufus' Daughter, Cecilia Noble as Miss Briscoe, Clare Hammond as Young Miss Shephard, Sam McArdle as The Biker, Giles Cooper as Passer-By

Contactmusic


Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.