Based on a true story The Lady in the Van follows the unexpected bond that arises between playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) a lady who lives in her van, first on Alan’s street and then on his driveway. The film spans 15 years and gradually reveals details about Miss Shepherds live and why she has come to live in her van on a strangers driveway.
The cast in this film are excellent, it’s filled with well known names who all give brilliant performances. The lead is the wonderful Maggie Smith – known for my generation as Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and most recently as the Lady Dowager on Downtown Abbey. This role was a far cry from either characters as it is clear that Miss Shepherd has lived a hard life. It was great to really see what Maggie Smith can do as there were plenty of emotional moments involving her character as well as funny ones. The only sad thing was that it made me realise how much she has aged since Harry Potter!
The other lead is Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett, his performance is also very good and his character’s calmness balances nicely with Miss Shepherd’s crazy ways. Alex also plays two versions of Bennett, one which lives his life and another as ‘the writer’ who sits in the house and writes everything down. The two versions often have conversations together which could get a little confusing. I didn’t fully understand the need for this, it just seemed to complicate things more rather than add to the film.
The rest of the cast consisted of: Frances de la Tour and Jim Broadbent – who played a rather villianious character which was unexpected! Also as Alan Bennett wrote The History Boys – a play and then a film that is well known – there were cameo’s from all of the ‘boys’ from that. Some of whom have gone on to bigger and better things! These were: James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey, Sacha Dhawan and Samuel Anderson.
Overall The Lady in the Van is a nice film that will make you laugh and cry, but unfortunately not much really happens. Maybe I am too young for the film (the rest of the audience were older and seemed to find it a lot more enjoyable!). Also the only funny parts were shown in the trailer and it felt like it went on a little too long as I was getting a bit bored by the end. The ending too is completely insane which takes down the film a little for me! It was nice to see Maggie Smith in a central role though, hopefully she will be given that opportunity again soon!