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The Lady in the Van Film Review

Updated on September 7, 2019
Maggie Smith
Miss Sheppherd
Alex Jennings
Alan Bennett
Frances de la Tour
Mrs Vaughn Williams
Jim Broadbent
Richard Griffiths
Sam Perry
Pandora Colin
Fiona Perry

About the film

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Producers: Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones, Kevin Loader

Running time: 1 hr 44 mins

Genre: Genre, Comedy, Biography

Distributed by: Sony Picture Classics

Budget: $6,000,000

About the film

Written by Alan Bennett, The Lady in the Van is a 2015 film directed by Nicholas Hytner. Hytner had previously directed the 1999 stage play at The Queen's Theatre in London. The film is based on the true life events of Mary Sheppherd who was a homeless lady. She lived in her van for 15 years, which she had parked in Alans driveway all this time. Originally she had parked on the street, but after numerous run ins with the street wardens and local yobs giving her abuse, she took it upon herself to tell Alan it would be better if she had off street parking, and parked her van in his driveway, where she remained for the next 15 years. Unbelievable as it may soon, this is what happened. This unusual and unique friendship is brought to life in the film as we find out who Mary is.

The beginning of the film shows us Mary, real name Margaret Fairchild, accidentally knocking down a motorcyclist. Fearing she will be caught by the Police, she lives in her van fearing capture and arrest. Though the other residents grow to accept her eccentric ways, Mary does test their patience on many occasions. She comes acoss as an ungrateful and cantankerous old woman, never says thankyou and is often rude. Even though they bring her presents at Christmas time, she can come across as ungrateful and 'too busy' to want to accept these little tokens of kindness.

Though the film has parts in it which will make you laugh, just because it's the way Mary is, I feel the film has an underlying story. Clearly Mary Sheppherd is a troubled woman with a troubled past. Although she is, or at least was, a professional piano player at one time, her brother had her admitted to hospital after a breakdown. She tried to become a Nun once, but they wouldn't let her play the piano.

The film is (mostly) true, but there are parts of the film that are put in, to make it film worthy material. Based on the book written by Alan Bennett, the film tells us what life was like with Mary Sheppherd living on his driveway. It also tells us the unique bond these 2 unlikely individuals had. With run-ins with Camden Council, local yobs and Social Workers, we see how Miss Sheppherd was a head strong and ungrateful, rude old lady.

My Thoughts

I remember watching this film when it was first released in 2015, and have recently watched it again. I love this film. It just goes to show what an excellent actress Maggie Smith is when she can play someone like The Dowager in Downton Abbey, then playing a role like this. I think she portrayed Miss Sheppherd very well and it came across well on screen what an awkard and difficult woman she was. Although people tried to help her, from the residents on the street and Social Services, she was often thankless when they brought her gifts at Christmas time.

Saying that though, I think Alan Bennett kind of felt responsible for her as she was living in his driveway. His desk looked out to the driveway so he often has his eye on her. One other fact I liked about the film was you could see Bennetts other self. What I mean by this is you saw Alan as himself, and the other Alan who spoke to himself with other thoughts.

This is an enchanting story where the other residents of the streets tolerated her, even though she was a difficult woman. Alan Bennett tells the story well and conveys the story of Miss Bennett well. He describes how difficult she could be and the odd friendship they subsequently had from the years she lived in her van. This is an amusing, yet heart-warming film about a women with a colourful and secretive past that Bennett lets abide his driveway for so many years.

Flowers? What do I want with flowers? They... They only die. I've got enough on my plate without flowers.

— Miss Mary Sheppherd

© 2018 Louise Powles


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