The Lady in the Van 2015


Alan Bennett has become a British national treasure in a way that’s completely at odds with what he writes. He may be caricatured as an avuncular figure who writes about funny old codgers, but Bennett’s work is also suffused with anger and a desire for social justice. His The History Boys is a rare film about school-teaching that’s not beholden to sentiment, and while The Lady in the Van was marketed as a lovable romp for Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith, it’s a true story about how the elderly are sidelined from society that’s anything but pat. Alex Jennings plays Bennett himself, and captured the playwright’s mannerisms without fuss under Nicholas Hytner’s direction, while Smith makes a complex figure of Miss Shepherd, who parked her van on his driveway and remained there for 15 years. US audiences, perhaps unfamiliar with Bennett’s work, would do well to take a look at this as an introduction to his work; it’s funny, honest, witty but never steps away from uncomfortable truths.


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