Lady in the Van (Nicholas Hytner, 2015): United Kingdom

Reviewed by Rowen Fields. Viewed at AFT Film Festival 2015.

“Lady in the Van” Directed by Nicholas Hytner is the entirely humorous ‘mostly true story’ of Allen Bennett (Alex Jennings) and a woman (Maggie Smith) with whom he had a very peculiar relationship with for over 15 years. There is so much to love about this film, from the realization that these events are real, to the amazing Maggie Smith, who does an incredible job at playing a mean, ridiculous, hilarious homeless woman, who lives in her van in the driveway of Bennett.

This film encompasses so much of what it is to be British, from the accommodation to things that most would think intolerable, to the crassness that permeates the undertone of most exchanges. We see Miss. Shepard (Smith), a homeless woman, who we learn was a nun until she was kicked out of the convent, for not giving up on her love for the piano. She comes to have a strange yet humorous relationship with Bennett, with whom she connects with more than any other in the film. Bennett has a strange type of connection with Miss. Shepard, with whom he is able to work out some of the issues he deals with his own mother and his own identity.

This film if filled with humor, being able to be achieved by the cast, who are able to keep the brush humor on point, the writing, witting and heart wrenching, and the relationship between these characters heartfelt and beautiful in the imperfectness of what it means to be human. It is a beautiful view of the human condition, on love, guilt, and what it means to be embraced and to embrace these imperfections.

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