There are a lot of good things about “The Lady in the Van.” Yep, Maggie Smith plays the titular lead, half of England’s acting community comes out in support, and the dialogue is what you expect – crisp, witty, and rolling along like a Great Western Railway locomotive.
As an added side-benefit, it’s currently widely available for streaming on a variety of services.
In broad strokes, the film centers on a liberally layered English bag lady who bludgeons her way into a semi-posh artist’s neighborhood and who uses her van to take up residence in any available space. She is described as an unapologetic “odoriferous concerto” as unused to personal hygiene as she is to the British standard of politeness.
For reasons driven primarily by his unused car park and convenience of his first-floor loo, “Miss Shepherd” attaches herself with abalone-like commitment to a bespectacled fusspot and “Wallace” look-alike (as in Wallace and Gromit) named Alan Bennett – a playwright who gradually comes to realize Miss Shepherd is moving into his life as irrevocably as his own mother begins to leave it.
Bennett (Alex Jennings) is a tweedy scribbler with a secret of his own who comes to realize there’s more to Miss Shepherd than Handi-Wipes and plastic bags. Their lives never fully mesh but he comes to find what moves his incontinent driveway-guest and how she came to be, ultimately realizing that she is also providing fodder for his creative side.
As we watched The Lady In The Van, we couldn’t help but think of the many local encounters we’ve heard of where those Life Has Stripped Clean turn to others in increasing numbers – taking up residence in pool houses, tool sheds, and electrical rooms. We often find ourselves wondering, as Alan Bennett finds himself wondering, who they are and where they came from. Sometimes, the answers are surprising.
Why We Liked It: The acting is very good with Smith leading the way and the rest of the cast doing commendable work. Dandy writing and characters.
Quotable Quote: “Chin up love – we’ve all got to go sometime. Smells like you already have…”
Available on Amazon Prime, YouTube, elsewhere.