Yesterday I went to see The Lady in the Van.
Now, I am a sucker for a Dame and I will pretty much go see Maggie Smith in whatever's going but The Lady in the Van was something special even by Maggie Smith standards.
Based on a semi-autobiographical play from Alan Bennett, the movie follows an elderly homeless lady, Mary Shepard (Maggie Smith) who parked her van in Bennett's (Alex Jennings) driveway for 15 years and the confusing, dysfunctional and heartwarming relationship between the unlikely pair.
The film deals with fear, guilt, loneliness and the need for absolution in spades, but it manages to be, overall, an extremely light and uplifting film, one that felt fresh and refreshing throughout.
I personally don't know much about Alan Bennett's life in general but his depiction in the film was utterly charming. All three versions of him, in fact.
During the main portion of the movie there are two Alan's, one does the writing, the other lives the life and the two converse throughout, and then towards the end of the film we get a brief glimpse of real life, current day Alan.
Despite the many Alan's, it's really Mary Shepard the movie revolves around, she is after all 'the lady in the van'. Alan is merely the vessel through which we experience her heartbreaking but never dull story.
I won't go into detail about Shepard's life and the events that led her to life in a van, there's too much to be gained from watching it unfold for yourself but I will say that you've never seen Maggie Smith quite like this and you aren't ever likely to again. Well worth the watch.