The Lady in the Van
Don't 'sweetheart' me!
Village Jam Factory Gold Class - Sunday 6 March 2016, 7:20pm
Running time: 104m
Country: United Kingdom
Classification: M (Mature themes and coarse language)
Release date: 03/03/16
Rating: 7.5/10 (ME 4/5, DP 3.5/5)
It's the early 1970s and writer Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) has moved into a quiet street in north London. However the peace is disturbed by a van driven by the eccentric Mary (Maggie Smith). Homeless, destitute and deeply religious, the eccentric Mary sets up outside Alan's home and before long he's taking responsibility for her welfare. Mary's slow growing reliance on Alan's kindness mirrors the slow decline of his mother (Gwen Taylor) as he struggles to accept the emotional strain both women place on his life. But it's the secrets of Mary's past provide the key to making sense of this complex and layered character.
The Lady in the Van is a dark, sad and very moving story about ageing and death delivered with compassion, a smattering of humour and a whole lot of soul. Maggie Smith is (as usual) brilliant and breathes life into a character that has a charming appeal lurking deep below the cantankerous exterior. Alex Jennings' performance as the two Alans (Alan the writer and Alan the person) provides a delightful dynamic and the conversations between the two are a real treat. The fourth wall is seamlessly broken often but never enough to move the film away from a detailed exploration of a deep sadness thinly veiled in indifference.
It took a little too long to end, though there's a scene towards the end (no spoilers here) that is a delight. Maggie Smith's Mary just seems to get filthier and her ageing on screen is very subtle (let's be honest, it would be difficult to make her look much younger) while the others age around her to mark the passing of time. Despite those flaws, The Lady in the Van is a delightful and very moving film. Take tissues. (ME)