A gloriously funny and poignant version of a true(ish) story, Nicholas Hytner’s The Lady In The Van is turned into cinematic gold by two national treasures.
Old Joyby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Written by Alan Bennett and performed in the main by Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings, with the director – Nicholas Hytner – and many of the cast of Bennett’s The History Boys, which has attained almost classic status, The Lady in the Van fulfils all expectations and is pure enjoyment. Bennett has cleverly expanded the story of his friendship with the eccentric Miss Shepherd who lived in her derelict van in his driveway for fifteen years (Maggie Smith at her most award-worthy) from his stage play and book onto the big screen. He himself is played by Alex Jennings, split into two – one as the Alan Bennett who does the writing and one the Alan Bennett who does the living – after all, writing’s just talking to yourself, one half of him says. Interwoven with Bennett’s kindness – “It’s just laziness really,” he shrugs – to one cantankerous and ungrateful old lady are his feelings of guilt at his ambivalent relationship with his uncomplaining mother, who is slipping into dementia, and whom he sees reluctantly. The icing on the cake is a script that wittily teases the audience about the relationship of the writer with his characters.
The Lady In The Van is now showing at the London Film Festival