“This film tugs at the mere essence of the HUMAN SPIRIT and won’t let go…”

Director Nicholas Hytner and Alan Bennett join forces yet again (having already worked together in creating THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE and THE HISTORY BOYS) to bring Bennett’s ALMOST TRUE STORY ~ which he literally took from his own memoire’s and wrote the screenplay to bring it to the BIG SCREEN ~ about a transient woman who sought refuge in her van, conveniently located outside Bennett’s home ~ This is THE LADY IN THE VAN!!!

Intrigued by the old woman who is living on his street in Camden Town~ playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) is rather taken in by this women, and her ability to thrive within the four walls of her old vehicle…

Reaching out like most people do in order to help their fellow man, Bennett finds that his generosity may have been a mistake, as now Ms. Shepherd (Dame Maggie Smith) is not only using his bathroom facilities regularly, but she has moved her van even closer to his humble abode…

When a strange man enters the picture, as it seems that Ms. Shepherd owes him funding of some kind, for some reason ~ Bennett decides that the best place for Ms. Shepherd, and her van, is to reside within the confines of his courtyard outside the front of his home.

Resting easier that Ms. Shepherd is technically OFF THE STREETS, Bennett finds that his own mother’s ailing health, along with feeling responsible for his new friend IN THE VAN outside his home ~ may have been more responsibility that he really wanted to take on at the present time…as it seems his days are now filled with the dealings of keeping both of the women in his life, safe and sound…

I give THE LADY IN THE VAN a rating between MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN and WAIT AND CATCH IT ON DVD: This film is a sweet reminder of the frailties that each of us must face, whether it be in our own lives or the lives of those we truly care about. Dame Maggie is superb as the homeless woman with the demeanor of an old codger ~ but with the abilities of an angel ~ and Jennings performance as her “caretaker, even though he claims he is anything but, is enjoyable to watch too. The only element that I found for me took away from the storyline a bit, was the fact that we got to see Bennett’s thoughts played out as a “twin figure”, bringing light to both sides of his personality, which I felt was unwarranted, given the perplexity of this storyline already. Suffice to say, I, like almost everyone else in the world, love Smith and her character portrayals, and her performance, as THE LADY IN THE VAN is no exception. She brings all the elements needed to make this film a memorable experience ~ whether you enjoy it at a theater near you, or in the comfort of your very own home ~ as she fills this film with her innate form of story telling that we admire from her in all of her roles, and adds a dash of skepticism and the frailty of the human spirit too, causing this film to tug at the mere essence of the “human spirit” and not let go…

Kathy Kaiser

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