Maggie Smith dominates The Lady in the Van, revisiting a theatre role that earned her great accolades. The quieter Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett is a solid choice for her exasperated sparring partner, in what’s essentially a two hander – although having a ‘writer’ and ‘liver’ Bennett onscreen adds an enjoyable dimension to the relationship. The rest of the characters are merely British thespian cameos – but fun to spot.
Bennett’s writing is balanced – witty asides and genuinely moving moments; the taboo of homelessness, and its dehumanized victims, is deftly handled. Sometimes, however, the storyline’s too small and domestic for the screen.
A film suited more to her fans and theatre buffs, it’s hard to imagine there being any point to The Lady in the Van onscreen without Maggie Smith.
CAST: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Hytner
WRITER: Alan Bennett
SYNOPSIS: When Alan Bennett (Jennings) moves into his new home in Camden, he meets an elderly, destitute lady that lives in her van, parked further up his street. With fellow residents soon tiring of her imposition, Bennett invites her to park (and live) on his driveway – where she will remain for the next 15 years.