Maggie Smith shines as the eccentric homeless woman Mary Sheppard/Margareth Fairchild in this British comedy adaption of Alan Bennetts play about the woman who lived in a van on his driveway for 15 years.
It is quite the fascinating story. Playwriter Alan Bennett had in the 1970s a friendship with a homeless woman who ended up living in a tired old van in his driveway. Later he discovered that the woman was a famous piano player who was on the run from the police being terrified that she had killed someone she hit with her car.
Let’s start with the acting. Maggie Smith. You can’t dislike Maggie Smith. The woman shines in everything she has ever done, and her performance as Miss Sheppard are both funny and incredibly charming and you just end up wondering how this womans personality really must have been. The role of Alan Bennett is played by Alex Jennings. Probably best knowns as Prince Charles in 2006s The Queen with Helen Miren. Jennings gives a pretty good portrayal of Bennett he is really not capable of matching the brilliance of Dame Maggie Smith here. She shines, he does not that much. Bennett is very careful and small, and he kind of disappears in the crowd of support.
The Director Nicholas Hytner manages to capture the british society in quite the appealing way. He is capable of showing the british manners and realism quite accurately and the chemistry between Sheppard and Bennett really comes to life
The cinematography is splendid. Done by BBC veteran Andrew Dunn and he manages to capture the weirdness of Miss Sheppard where she wheels around in a wheelchair or asks The Virgin Mary for guidance.
The film is shot on location around Bennetts old home in Camden Town where he and Mary Sheppard actually lived and the film uses alot of colours and yellow to symbolize this womans uniqueness. The soundtrack consists of a lot of classical music. Chopin is a recurring composer here but there are also some parts composed by George Fenton. Piano music has always been beautiful to listen too and it fits in with the recurring theme of the movie. How Miss Sheppard was a famous piano prodigy in her youth.
The Lady in The Van is one of the finest films Maggie Smith has done in years. She is quite frankly the highlight of the film as this bizarre strange woman and you will find yourself charmed from the first minute. It is a visually gorgeous movie and a strong story about the solid friendship between two unlikely individuals.