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

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