Film review: The Lady in the Van

Part of a series of reviews for films from the 2016 Kamloops Film Festival

kff-article-logoLady-in-the-Van-poster-2The Lady in the Van is a very quirky British film about the true story of senior Miss Shepherd who parks her van in the driveway of younger playwright Alan Bennett and then proceeds to live there for 15 years.

Miss Shepherd, played by the incredible Maggie Smith, is a bitter old woman who often goes months without a shower. She provides the majority of the humour in this movie, as she still presents herself as a well-mannered English woman, yet uses Bennett’s driveway as a lavatory and has a van for a house.

Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings, is a loner and wishes he had a more interesting life to write about. Through the film we see he is a kind man as although he finds Miss Shepherd’s presence in the neighborhood a nuisance, he cannot help but offer her some help. To the annoyance of the residents, Miss Shepherd constantly re-parks her old van in front of different households in the respectable neighborhood of Gloucester Crescent.

Bennett, who often does his writing by the window facing the street, is frequently interrupted by Shepherd’s doings, along with the occasional hooligans who taunt her. Before the neighbourhood gets a chance to kick Shepherd out, Bennett offers his driveway for her temporarily in order to give her time to make a plan. As time goes on, temporarily turns into permanently, and Bennett is too passive to change that.

Their relationship throughout the years is hilarious, as Shepherd is still quite formal yet very sassy, and Bennett is always passive while caring.
The film has a bit of darkness underneath it, as Shepherd’s reasoning for living in a van is because she is on the run. Bennett doesn’t find out until after her passing that Shepherd had falsely believed she was to blame for a man’s death in a motorcycle accident.

She lives the rest of her life devoted to praying for forgiveness and hoping no one finds out. It is also quite unsettling when you realize this movie is a true story, and Miss Shepherd was a real women who lived like this for 15 years.

It is one of those films that leaves you thinking about how insane it is that some people have lives like this, while you are sitting in a movie theatre watching it all for amusement. The only negative factor about the film would be that some scenes drag on for quite a while without much happening, but when one realizes this film is a true story, it is to be expected that this woman’s life could not have been a series of huge dramatic events.
The film seems to be aimed at an older audience, although younger generations are bound to enjoy its humour as well. The theatre’s majority was filled with seniors who often howled with laughter at the different scenes.

At the end of the day, there is nothing quite like experiencing a movie with the reaction of dozens of other people. Sharing the laughter together makes it a very enjoyable experience, proving that the Kamloops Film Festival has had another very successful year.