Run time: 104 mins

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances de la Tour, Stephen Campbell Moore, Roger Allam, Jim Broadbent, Gwen Taylor, Deborah Findlay

Synopsis: A true story based on an incident in Alan Bennett’s own life, the film recounts how Miss Mary Shepherd, a rootless eccentric, one day parked her van in Bennett’s driveway and ended up staying there for fifteen years.



This amazing true story of the ‘infragrant vagrant’  who parked her Bedford van on playwright Alan Bennett’s driveway in Camden, London and stayed for fifteen years was an award-winning play and now has been brought to the big screen by the distinguished former National Theatre Artistic Director, Nicholas Hytner with Bennett’s own script.

The film is a quintessentially British delight, celebrating the eccentric, lonely and cantankerous Miss Mary Shepherd – flawlessly played by Maggie Smith, one of the world’s most distinguished actors on stage, television and screen, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Gosford Park (2001). She is ably supported by National Theatre actor Alex Jennings (The Queen, 2006); Babel, 2006; The Wings of the Dove, 1997) playing a bifurcated Bennett.

The lead actors are backed by a superb ensemble cast, including a reunion of many of the cast of Bennett’s The History Boys in supporting roles – Frances de la Tour, Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey and James Corden.

In turns surreal, moving and touching, The Lady in the Van raises important issues like the care of the elderly – Bennett had just moved to London in the 1970s as his career took off, leaving his mother up north, when Miss Shepherd imposed on him.  Social change in Camden over the fifteen years is well observed, as demographics change and property prices go up.

At the Hay Festival on 27 May 2015, Alan Bennett said: “The story told by this film took place forty and more years ago and Miss Shepherd is long since dead.  She was difficult and eccentric but above all she was poor.  And these days particularly the poor don’t get much of a look in.  Poverty is as much of a moral failing today as it was under the Tudors.

If the film has a point, it’s about fairness and tolerance and however grudgingly helping the less fortunate, who are not well thought of these days.  And now likely to be even less so.”

The Lady in the Van is an unmissable treat.

Images courtesy of BBC Films 

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