26 April 2016

”The Lady in the Van"

Alan Bennett's memoir and his subsequent stage play inspired this film, based on the true story of how Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) came to park her 'home', a dilapidated old van, in Bennett's driveway and live there for no less than 15 years.

The device of physically portraying Bennett as the two parts of his character, the writer and the man, is very clever.

While the other residents of the street wish that the lady and her van would move on, Bennett helps her, albeit reluctantly at first. The exchange between Bennett and the social worker over his role as her 'carer' is hilarious. As the story unfolds we learn more about Miss Shepherd, if indeed that is her name. Her story is a sad one. Once a gifted concert pianist, her life was changed by her time in a convent, and then by an incident that leads her to believe she is a fugitive from the law. Add in a blackmailer, and her constant need to confess her sins, and we start to understand why she is as she is.

I'm sure that you will agree that it is difficult to imagine anyone else than Maggie Smith in the role.