REVIEW: THE LADY IN THE VAN

Starring

Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)
Alex Jennings (Belle)
Roger Allam (The Book Thief)
Deborah Findlay (Maigret)
Jim Broadbent (Paddington)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Cecilia Noble a(Rate me)
Gwen Taylor (Heartbeat)
Frances de la Tour (Alice Through The Looking GLass)
Nicholas Burns (Benidorm)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)
James Corden (One Chance)
David Calder (Rush)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Samuel Barnett (The History Boys)
Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist)

Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett’s strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, a crabby, eccentric and insanitary homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home “for three months”. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a gifted former pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for whose death she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)Much of the dialogue is between two versions of Bennet – his “real self” and his “writer self”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)During her 15-year stay in his drive, Bennett balances his writing career with watching over Shepherd and providing for his increasingly invalid mother. Though he denies “caring” for anyone, he slowly becomes aware of his growing friendship with Shepherd. After coming home early from a day centre he sent her to, she dies peacefully in her sleep in her van. Alan decides to write a memoir covering the years he’s known her. In 2014, the real Bennett is shown observing this film’s final scene being filmed: his younger selves unveiling a plaque on his home dedicated to “The Lady in the Van”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)It’s not the biggest dramedy out there and not even the funniest, but The Lady in the Van is bound to please just about anyone. And like the titular character, it’s a film hard to love, but once you do, it’s equally hard to resist.