The Lady in The Van (2015) – Film Review

More than just a comedy


Hello everyone, no I haven’t forgotten I’ve got a movie blog.  Haven’t been feeling great over the last couple of weeks but think I’ve got my head back in a good place.  Fingers crossed you’ll see more from me in the run up to Christmas.  Still need to catch up with two other reviews and I’m watching the six existing Star Wars films in the coming weeks ahead of the new release on December 17th – have my ticket for the midnight showing, can’t wait.

The Lady in the Van is directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys (2006)) and has has been adapted from the play of the same name by Alan Bennett.  The story sees Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings, moving into the London suburb of Camden in preparation for his play opening in the West End.   A mysterious older women known as Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) moves into the road in her battered old van much to the annoyance of her new neighbours.  Bennett invites her to park her van on his drive where she continues to live for the next fifteen years.

The most remarkable thing about this film is that it is based on a true story.  Even knowing this going in I’m still having a hard time taking it in.  If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll be expecting a typical British comedy populated with familiar faces you recognise but can’t quite place.  While that is true The Lady in the Van is a far more complex beast than this.  I had thought about trying to weave the different themes together into a witty paragraph but I’m not that clever so I’m going to list them instead:

  • It’s a tale of Catholic guilt
  • It’s about a man accepting his true identity
  • It’s about someone learning to be a participant in life as opposed to being an observer
  • It’s a commentary on suburban life
  • It’s about not making judgments on people on face value alone

I had a very odd relationship with this film while watching it.  For the first few minutes I hated it and couldn’t imagine sitting through its full length.  There is an ‘incident’ at the very start of film which then leads into what you’ve seen in the trailer and I was steaming mad.  How am I supposed to give two hoots about this miserable old bat given what I’ve just seen.  But as the story unfolds and I learned more about her background and her interactions with Bennett I calmed down and by the end I had just about been won over.  I did have an issue with how her back story was resolved and how neatly it wrapped everything up as it felt a little convenient but if it’s true than fair enough.

Overall I’m going to be positive about this film because it is a step above the average British comedy and it surprised me (in a good way) with the different subtexts.  It’s still out in cinemas so check it out if you’ve got a spare couple of hours.  My score 3/5.


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