The true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.
ActorsStarring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances de la Tour, Gwen Taylor, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Roger Allam, Samuel Anderson, Dermot Crowley, Jim Broadbent, Russell Tovey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Eleanor Matsuura, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Barnett, Marion Bailey, Deborah Findlay, David Calder, Elliot Levey, Jamie Parker, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Harriet Thorpe, Rosalind Knight, June Watson, Pandora Colin, George Taylor, Richard Banks, Tom Coulston, Aaron Neil, Jessica Bastick-Vines, Cecilia Noble, Clare Hammond, Sam McArdle, Giles Cooper
Based on true events, the story of The Lady in the Van was first captured in writer Alan Bennett’s memoirs and later in his West End play. Now there is also a movie.
‘The Lady in the Van’ was Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), an elderly vagrant living in her van in the streets of Camden in the 1970s and 80s. She came to live in Alan Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) driveway for some fifteen years. The movie tells the story of how Mary came to live, in her van, in Alan’s garden, and in a slow and roundabout way also discloses how she ended up living her autumn years in that van in the first place.
The movie has plenty of fine acting. The star by far of course is Maggie Smith who is wonderful to watch. And Alex Jennings holds up very well, and the combination of the two make an excellent pairing.
But there are a few problems with the movie. There just isn’t really enough of a story for a feature length movie. This may be because the way the script goed about slowly revealing more of Mary’s history is a bit clunky; the movie tries to be a comedy, but the more of Mary’s history is disclosed, the less that seems to work. And the finale works in storytelling terms but is poor in cinematographic terms.
You may want to watch it for the interplay between Alex Jennings and Maggie Smith, which has many lovely moments, and for plenty of dry and wry humour. But in the end, unfortunately, it is just too slow and clunky to be the minor gem I was hoping for.