THE LADY IN THE VAN
FILM REVIEW - THE LADY IN THE VAN
Directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances De La Tour.
Very slight and inoffensive.
Some might say that one Alan Bennett is more than enough, but The Lady in the Van gives us three. This semi-fictional account of the 15-year period Bennett spent with a homeless woman living in his driveway opens with the disclaimer, “mostly a true story.” This waiver allows director Nicholas Hytner to take frequent reveries into fantasy territory and avoid the problematic realities of homelessness. So Bennett the writer bickers and argues with Bennett the person (both played by Alex Jennings) about what to do with the ever-present Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith).
The Lady in the Van is an urban fairy tale. It’s all very slight and inoffensive, but with the air of a made-for-TV movie. Fans mourning the loss of Downton Abbey will find some comfort in Smith’s performance. With her barbed putdowns and bon mots, Miss Shepherd is essentially the Dowager Countess in hand-me-down clothing.