Film Review: The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van is showing at Plymouth Arts Centre from December 11 – December 23

Before the film has even started I’m already enjoying my Plymouth Arts Centre experience – sat in my chair with a glass of wine cheaper than most other city bars, and surrounded by like-minded people.

The film starts with the eccentric Miss Shepherd (played by the incredible Maggie Smith) driving her rather run down van away from a policeman after hitting something – we are yet to know whether this is a person or an animal.

Miss Shepherd hastily arrives in Camden, London, on a street whose inhabitants aren’t too pleased by her arrival. It is the new resident, Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) that notices the dear old lady and somewhat takes a shine to her.

Throughout the film we begin to learn more about both lead characters and slowly see a true friendship blossoming. Although Bennet continually calls her “bigoted, rank and rude” – it is also all these qualities that make her such an adorable character.

As their friendship grows, Mr Bennet starts writing about the dear old lady in her conked out and rather smelly van. The film adaption uses two characters to play Mr Bennet – one for living his life and one for writing the story. Although this was confusing at times I thought it was a great addition to the story.

Possibly the best part of the film is when Miss Shepherd asks Mr Bennet to push her up the hill and let her roll back down. You see all of this energy, freedom and youth run out of the character and down the hill.

Miss Shepherd starts to deteriorate and is taken into day care – the audience look on and watch a beautiful scene of the dear old lady being bathed and having her hair done and we forget the rude old lady and see her as this wonderful human being.

The only thing that let the film down for me was the last few scenes. Other than that it was a truly wonderful film starring magnificent characters.

The added cameo of the real Alan Bennet was also a brilliant addition.

I think deep down – everyone knows someone like Miss Shepherd in their lives!

Emily Smith


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