Title: The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Run time: 104 minutes
Written by Alan Bennett and directed by Nicholas Hytner, The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings.
Elderly, eccentric and possibly suffering from mental health issues, Miss Shepherd (Smith) finds herself without anywhere to live. She permanently parks up her, old, oddly coloured, van outside Alan Bennet's house - in which she lives for 15 years.
Maggie Smith has made this role her own over the years having starred in the stage play and the radio play. She is wonderful as the batty old lady.
Alan Bennet's writing is excellent as always. A really skilful writer, Bennett has always been able to acutely observe people. His stories are always compelling and one wonders why The Lady in the Van took so long to make it to film. Possibly this is because for much of the film Mrs Shepherd is a rather unlikable, unsympathetic character - cantankerous and rather ungrateful of the generosity shown to her by Bennett. Did she kill a person in a hit and run accident? Is she really homeless? Was she really a nun or an accomplished pianist? All interesting questions that we may or may not find the answers to during the runtime of the film.
Alex Jennings is the embodiment of Alan Bennett - twice - playing his apparent split personalities with ease and aplomb. His vocal work is superb.
Frances De La Tour plays a supporting role. It's always nice to see her since she played her best known role as Mrs Jones opposite Leonard Rossiter in Rising Damp.
Seeing Alan Bennett live on stage several years ago was a genuinely delightful experience. If you've never had the chance to catch Bennett in a live performance I encourage you to do so... In the meantime The Lady in the Van on DVD is a fine and enjoyable alternative.