Maggie Smith is the perfect person to play Miss Shepard, The Lady in the Van. In 1999 Maggie played this character in a theatre production, a production that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the 2000 Olivier Awards. Sixteen years later, near enough the same amount of time Miss Shepherd spends on Alan Bennett’s front garden, we are seeing a new adaptation of the events.
Alan Bennett is one of Britain’s most highly regarded writers and proves this in this latest movie. We see Miss Shepherd and her succession of badly hand painted bright yellow vehicles being situated on Gloucester Crescent in Camden until Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings, lets her park the van on his driveway “temporarily” for what ended up being fifteen years.
We see in the movie that Alan Bennett was characterised by care workers as being her carer and her friend to which he regularly dismisses throughout. He describes Miss Shepherd as an evil wretched old woman who he happens to let park on his driveway.
Throughout the movie we are met with a number of entertaining scenes, one of which featuring a cameo from James Corden as a market stall holder and a very pleasing scene where Alan Bennett pushes Miss Shepherd down the sloped road in her wheelchair. It is one of the few scenes where we see Miss Shepherd smile. These were however infrequent, generally the mood was very negative and at points depressing, the movie juggled between Alan’s Mother who was growing increasingly more frail and Miss Shepherd a homeless elderly lady who rarely cracked a smile. I just needed something to lift the mood a bit.
The Lady in the Van is a classic story; Alan Bennett wrote it very well and kept my interest throughout. Maggie Smith playing Miss Shepherd was the right person, but something about it just didn’t really sparkle for me. For me it was a good movie, but not a great movie. I’m not going to be shouting from the rooftops about it, but I would recommend it to someone.