The Lady in the Van

2015

Action / Biography / Comedy / Drama

Synopsis


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Cast

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd
Dominic Cooper as Actor
James Corden as Market Trader
Jim Broadbent as Underwood
720p 1080p
757.28 MB
1280*720
English
PG-13
23.976 fps
1hr 44 min
P/S 3 / 26
1.58 GB
1920*1080
English
PG-13
23.976 fps
1hr 44 min
P/S 0 / 12

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by David Ferguson ([email protected]) 7 / 10

Watch where you step

Greetings again from the darkness. "There's air freshener behind the Virgin". That line should provide the necessary caution for you to be braced for just about anything to be said by any character in this latest from director Nicholas Hytner. Billed as "A mostly true story", it's actually more commentary on how we treat those less fortunate and how we use others for our own gain. That bleak message is cloaked here in humor and a wonderful performance from Dame Maggie Smith.

Alan Bennett is an author, playwright and screenwriter known for The History Boys and The Madness of King George (Oscar nominated for his script). He is also at the core of this story – every bit as much as Ms. Shepherd, the lady in the van. While living in upper crust Camden Town, Mr. Bennett offered to let Ms. Shepherd park her van in his driveway for a few weeks until she could make other arrangements. This van was also her home, and the years (as they are apt to do) came and went until this arrangement had lasted 15 years (1974-1989).

You might assume that Ms. Shepherd was an extremely appreciative "squatter", but in fact, she was quite a cantankerous and difficult woman, possibly/probably suffering from mental instability. Maggie Smith brings a humanity to the role that she had previously owned onstage and radio. She goes far deeper than the wise-cracking old lady role we have grown accustomed to seeing her play … though her vicious dialogue delivery remains in prime form. Throughout the film, we assemble bits and pieces of Ms. Shepherd's background: an educated-French speaking musician-turned nun-former ambulance driver-who "possibly" won awards for her talents. She is also carrying a burden of guilt from a past tragic accident that keeps her in the confessional on a consistent basis.

Mr. Bennett is played by Alex Jennings (The Queen, 2006), and the film actually presents dual Bennetts – the one doing the writing, and the one doing the living. These two Bennetts are a virtual married couple – arguing over Ms. Shepherd, and jabbing each other with barbs aimed directly at known emotional weaknesses. The living Bennett claims to be so full of British timidity that he couldn't possibly confront the woman junking up his driveway. The writer Bennett takes the high road and claims he would rather write spy stories than focus his pen on the odorous, obnoxious transient living in his front yard. Of course, now that we have a play and movie, it's difficult to avoid viewing Mr. Bennett's actions as anything less than inspiration for his writing … though the extended charitable actions cannot be minimized.

With director Hytner and writer Bennett reuniting, it's also interesting to note that more than a dozen actors from The History Boys make appearances here. The list includes James Corden, Frances de la Tour, and Dominic Cooper. Also in supporting roles are Roger Allam and Deborah Findlay (playing constantly irritated neighbors), Gwen Taylor as Bennett's dementia-stricken mother, Jim Broadbent as a blackmailing former cop, and Marion Bailey as a staffer at the abbey.

Filmed at the same house where the van was parked for so many years, the film is a reminder to us to exercise tolerance and charity in dealing with the poor. Even Bennett's grudgingly-offered assistance is a step above what would typically be expected. While we could feel a wide spectrum of emotions for the two main parties here, it's Ms. Shepherd's character who says "I didn't choose. I was chosen". We are left to interpret her words in a way that is either quite sad or accepting.

The film mostly avoids dime store sentimentality, and that's in large part due to Maggie Smith's performance. Few are as effective at frightening young kids or putting the elite in their place. The ending scene shows the real Alan Bennett cruising into the driveway on his bicycle just as the blue plaque honoring the lady in the van is displayed. We can be certain this gesture would not generate a "thank you" from her.

Reviewed by Martin Bradley ([email protected]) 8 / 10

A third Oscar for Maggie? Very probable, I'd say.

Like all the best English comedies, the humor in "The Lady in the Van" is founded on character and in eccentricity but then we should expect nothing less from the pen of the great Alan Bennett. This is mostly a true story we are told and it's the story of a very eccentric lady and one, or is it two, quite eccentric men. The lady is Mary, or is it Margaret, Shepherd who might be considered homeless were it not for the van she lives in. The somewhat eccentric man is Bennett himself. I said two because in this case we get two Bennetts for the price of one, Alan the writer and Alan the householder and they are both played by Alex Jennings.

Miss Shepherd really existed and she's the lady who, at Bennett's request. moved her van from the street outside his house, where she had parked it, into his driveway. Initially she was due to stay a few months but ended up parking there for 15 years. Bennett turned the story of her stay first into a novella and then into a play and now, under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, into a film and a beautiful job he's made of it.

Of course, for the purpose of dramatic and comic effect Mr Bennett has taken liberties, adding bits here and there including a delightful phantasmagorical ending. He also surrounds himself and Miss Shepherd with a host of other characters, some almost as eccentric as they are. Recreating the part she played on stage Maggie Smith is magnificent in the title role. Of course, you could say Maggie has been playing variations of Jean Brodie for the past 45 years. It's easy to see Miss Brodie in the put-downs of the Dowager, Countess of Grantham had Jean been born into a different generation or class and it's not much of a step to see Miss Shepherd as an older, very much down-on-her-luck Jean Brodie. A third Oscar is certainly not out of the question.

Jennings, too, has Bennett off to a tee and there's lovely support from the likes of Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam and Deborah Findlay as sundry neighbors while the entire cast of Bennett's "The History Boys" manage to pop up in one form or another. If it feels slighter than some of Bennett's other offerings it may simply be because here he is writing about someone we would probably pass in the street without looking twice at. Of course, if on meeting Miss Shepherd in the street we knew what we know now, we might indeed give her a second or even a third glance; we might even invite her to move her van into our driveway. Slight? Not a bit of it.

Reviewed by davidgee 8 / 10

Dame Maggie as another cranky old bird

At the bottom of the poster it says: 'This is a mostly true story.' Nicholas Hytner directs a 'revisionist' take on Miss Shepherd, the tramp-like old biddy who parked her van in Alan Bennett's front drive for a few weeks that turned into 15 years. The movie version fleshes out her story with glimpses of her past (a convent, a piano recital, a family feud, a fatal accident) which the narrator (one of the two Alan Bennetts played by Alex Jennings) tells us he only found out after she died.

A woman in front of me whispered to her companion, who wondered why Alan Bennett had a twin, that he actually had a split personality. That's not a bad explanation for the device of the householder Alan who puts up with Miss Shepherd (and clears her mess from his drive) and the writer Alan who doesn't think there's a story in this. I'm not sure that the double-act is entirely effective or necessary: a voice-over from the real Alan would have worked just as well, wouldn't it?

Despite the attempts to give the Lady a life before the Van, the screenplay is more revealing about the playwright, the reluctant Samaritan who is also having to deal with his northern mother's journey down the road to dementia. There are even a few references to the fact that Mr Bennett's sexuality was being questioned for many years before he finally outed himself.

The movie has more pace than the book and the play did. Maggie Smith is of course simply magnificent, fully absorbed into the grimy skin of this unlovable old harridan. Her performance is pitched midway between the Duchess of Downton and Muriel from the Marigold Hotel, although the character preposterously blends Hyacinth Bucket with Victor Meldrew. The 'History Boys', who largely owe their careers to Mr Bennett, pop up in a series of cameos, along with Frances de la Tour and Stephen Campbell-Moore from the same play. Jim Broadbent's scrounger is the least convincing presence and is perhaps mostly untrue.

This looks like being another highly competitive year for Oscars and BAFTAs, but Dame Maggie is certain to be a contender and could well be a winner. THE LADY IN THE VAN is not pitch-perfect in the way that THE HISTORY BOYS was (and the first - best - MARIGOLD HOTEL), but it is another master-class exemplar of British writing, acting and film- making.

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