Film review: The Lady in The Van (12A)

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SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: MAGGIE SMITH, ALEX JENNINGS, JIM BROADBENT, DOMINIC COOPER, STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE, RUSSELL TOVEY, ROGER ALLAM, JAMES CORDEN & FRANCES DE LA TOUR

RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 44 MINS

DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS HYTNER

Maggie Smith at her best.

When booking my tickets for The Lady in the Van, I had to laugh at the description of the film on the website – which simply read: ‘A man forms a bond with a woman, who has parked her car on his driveway.’

I guess the person whose job it is to sell a movie with words was having a bad day – as let me assure you, there is much more to the film than that.

To be fair, yes – a lady does park her vehicle in a man’s driveway. That lady is Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a homeless, isolated, ungrateful, old woman. This is the mostly true story of how she takes up residence outside the posh Camden Town home of playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings).

But what was supposed to be a temporary arrangement lasted 15 years. During that time, locals shower her with gifts and food, and does Mary appreciate the gesture? Not at all. In her eyes, it is the least that they can do.

As you can imagine, such a long time beside such a colourful character led to some interesting stories. The real life Bennett wrote many of them in his diary, which was extracted into a book, then a play, and now a movie.

Like the play, this is directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George and the History Boys), who refreshingly brings a good amount of humour to this dramatic tale.

However, the laughs don’t come around as frequently as the marketing campaigns might have you believe. And for those hoping to see a decent amount of James Corden, unfortunately what you see in the trailer is all you get.

But this is Smith’s movie vehicle, and is highly watchable due to the hundred per cent dedication she gives it throughout the duration.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to see her with an Oscar nomination because of it.

Rating: 4/5 Mikey Clarke